The Olympic games are the pinnacle of an athlete's career, where the fastest, strongest and elite compete for the podium finish. But just like you and me, they too suffer injuries, both career-ending and career limiting.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, out of the 9572 athletes, 1055 injuries were reported with the knee's most commonplace injury. The table below shows a grasp of the injuries sustained by athletes at the 2008 Olympic games and 2010 Winter Olympic games.
Let's focus on the summer sports for this article.
If you guessed football (soccer), taekwondo, field hockey, handball and weightlifting as your top five, you win the GOLD!
Source: Scientific American, 2012
What're the Safest Olympics Sports?
Your top 5 sports to get you to and from the Olympics are Sailing, Canoeing/Kayaking, Rowing, Synchronised Swimming and Diving for the risk-averse. Having said that, I've seen all of those sportsmen and women with injuries at PhysioWorks!
But the injury is not necessarily the end of your Olympic aspirations. You can see from the chart above that most athletes were able to recover and compete.
How Do Olympians Recover So Quickly?
So what would be a 6-week injury for the local athlete (“Elite”) could potentially be under 4 weeks for the Olympian. When you’re at the elite level, you generally have an overabundance of medical assistance. You are closely monitored in terms of your daily health, and any “niggles” are seen immediately - not to mention the multiple physiotherapy sessions they can have in one day! Furthermore, they have access to state of the art medical technology, which can assist diagnosis and speed up recovery. They are also in sync with their bodies and consistently perform the recovery tasks mentioned below to ensure they are ready for their events and speed up their recovery.
What Do Olympians Do to Recover Quicker?
As mentioned earlier, a considerable portion of the Olympic athlete's recovery can be attributed to their access to medical assistance. The athlete does the training and has a natural talent, but a proactive and readily available medical team is behind them, ensuring they stay at the top. We cannot undermine the athlete’s proactivity in performing their recovery - regular stretching, not ignoring “niggles”, performing rehabilitation and “prehab” as prescribed. These are done so consistently but also with technical precision - not accepting poor quality.
How Do Olympians Prevent Injuries Between Events?
Competing at the Olympics isn’t a one-off event. More often than not, each sport has heats followed by a final series - sometimes even on the same day! To ensure the athletes are in their most refined form to compete, they implement all the tricks of the trade - most of which we have access to! Compression gear, physiotherapy, massages, stretching, foam rollers, adequate nutrition and active recovery. Active recovery is often overlooked by the local sporting athlete but can easily be the difference between 80% and 100% recovered for your event. This can be done by a simple warm down jog/walk, stretching, pool recovery (water walking, light swimming) and nutrition.
As the name suggests, the warm down is the opposite of the warm-up. We aim to gradually lower the heart rate and body temperature following physical activity. Simultaneously, it removes waste products created during exercise, including the dreaded Lactic Acid - which can cause cramping and tightness in muscles if it is not effectively removed. Inevitably, the tightness and soreness in muscles restrict movement and limit the athlete's ability to perform at their top level.
What Does PhysioWorks Offer that Olympic Athletes Access?
At Physioworks, we believe that every athlete competing in 5th-grade rugby or premier grade netball should access the same medical team services that elite athletes do. With you at the centre, a team approach ensures your recovery from injury or event is undertaken effectively and efficiently. By offering access to physiotherapists, dietitians, massage therapists, exercise physiologists, hand therapists, acupuncturists, etc., you are in excellent care. Supplying products to potentially speed your recovery (protective equipment, compression garments, tens machines and many other products), we are giving our patients every opportunity to ensure their quick and safe recovery. Of course, there is the body’s natural healing ability but, if we can place it in the optimal healing environment, you too can heal like an Olympian.
More info: Sports Injuries