A cross-sectional study of retired Great British Olympians (Berlin 1936-Sochi 2014): Olympic career injuries, joint health in later life, and reasons for retirement from Olympic sport

Dale J Cooper, Mark E Batt, Mary S. O'Hanlon, Debbie Palmer

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Abstract

Background: The relationship between Olympic career sport injury and the long-term musculoskeletal health of the elite athlete remains unclear. This study describes the lifetime prevalence of medical attention injuries that occurred during training and/or competition as part of the athlete’s Olympic career, reasons for retirement from Olympic sport, and the point prevalence of pain and osteoarthritis (OA) among retired Great Britain’s (GB) Olympians. Methods: This cross-sectional study involved distributing a questionnaire to retired GB Olympians who had competed at 36 Olympic Games between Berlin 1936 and Sochi 2014. The questionnaire captured Olympic career injury history (lasting ≥ 1 month), sport exposure, musculoskeletal pain (last 4 weeks), physician-diagnosed OA, and joint replacement. Injury prevalence was calculated for sports with a minimal of 15 respondents. Adjusted odds ratios (aOR) were estimated in logistic regression for pain, OA, and joint replacement. Models were adjusted for age, sex, BMI, and career duration. Results: Six hundred fifty (57.8% male; 42.2% female) retired athletes representing 40 sports (29 summer; 11 winter), aged 60.5 years (range 23–97), completed the questionnaire. Overall, 721 injuries (368 athletes) were self-reported equating to a lifetime Olympic career injury prevalence of 56.6%. Injury prevalence was highest in field athletics (81.0%), gymnastics (75.0%), and track athletics (67.7%). Injuries most frequently occurred at the knee (19.0%), lower back (15.4%), and shoulder (11.5%). Of those injured, 19.5% retired from sport due to injury. Pain was most prevalent at the lumbar spine (32.8%), knee (25.3%), and hip (22.5%), and OA at the knee (13.4%), hip (10.4%), and lumbar spine (4.6%). Injury was associated with pain at the hip (aOR 4.88; 95% CI, 1.87–12.72, p = 0.001), knee (aOR 2.35; 95% CI, 1.45–3.81, p = 0.001), and lumbar spine (aOR 2.53; 95% CI, 1.63–3.92, p < 0.001); OA at the hip (aOR 5.97; 95% CI, 1.59–22.47, p = 0.008) and knee (aOR 3.91; 95% CI, 2.21–6.94, p < 0.001); and joint replacement at the hip (aOR 8.71; 95% CI, 2.13–35.63, p = 0.003) and knee (aOR 5.29; 95% CI, 2.39–11.74, p < 0.001). Conclusion: The lifetime prevalence of Olympic career injury was 56.6%, with those injured more likely to self-report current pain and/or OA at the hip, knee, and lumbar spine and joint replacement at the hip and knee.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the staff at the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis (formerly the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis), the University of Nottingham, the British Olympic Association (BOA) Athletes’ Commission, and all the participants who contributed to this study. We would like to thank Sarah Winckless and Christine Bower for their invaluable assistance with distributing the survey. This work was supported by Versus Arthritis [grant number 20194], funding gratefully received from the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the staff at the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis (formerly the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis), the University of Nottingham, the British Olympic Association (BOA) Athletes? Commission, and all the participants who contributed to this study. We would like to thank Sarah Winckless and Christine Bower for their invaluable assistance with distributing the survey. This work was supported by Versus Arthritis [grant number 20194], funding gratefully received from the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Prevalence
  • Injury
  • Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Olympians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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