Protecting the health of the athletes is a key priority of the IOC. We follow a scientific, long-term approach to prevent injury and illness in athletes, starting with measurement in each sport. During the Olympic Games, we collect data on all the participating athletes’ injuries and illnesses that occur every day in competition and in training. This data then joins a larger set of epidemiological data collected in other events and throughout the season in different sports.

Identifying injury factors

In the last Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, sports characterized by high speed and jumps with aerial maneuvers dominated the injury statistics. However, when drilling down into these statistics, we observe that gender and age are two factors that influence the risk of injury in these sports.

When sports or disciplines in which the injury or illness risk is particularly high have been identified, other types of research studies are conducted to find out why and how these injuries or illnesses occur. This is achieved by collecting scientific data on the risk factors and the mechanisms of injury/illness to help explain their relationship.

Lessening the risks

...gender and age are two factors that influence the risk of injury in these sports.

In turn, this information is used to inform the design and development of injury or illness prevention measures in sport. Using the information acquired, we can introduce prevention initiatives in what would be termed “high-risk sports,” with the goal of making the sports safer for elite and recreational athletes. Depending on why and how the injuries or illnesses occur, these prevention measures can include changing an athlete’s training program, addressing and improving physical deficiencies or modifying the rules of the sports, the competition venue or the sports equipment used.

Having identified the sports with the highest risk, the IOC is working actively with International Federations and other stakeholders to lessen the risk. Building on the data from the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi 2014, the IOC convened a group of experts in Lausanne in 2015 to agree on a roadmap. Based on the feedback from this group of athletes, coaches, race directors, terrain park and jump builders, epidemiologists, doctors and physical therapists, a research program was agreed on to focus on establishing the exact risk factors and mechanisms of injury in events that show higher risk, with the aim of developing methods to standardize the engineering of the courses and jumps in these sports and make them safer for the athletes.