Objective: Describe the self-reported prevalence and nature of Olympic-career injury and general health and current residual symptoms in a self-selected sample of retired Olympians.
Methods: 3357 retired Olympians from 131 countries completed a cross-sectional online survey, distributed by direct email through World Olympians Association and National Olympian Associations databases. The survey captured Olympic sport exposure, significant training and competition injury history (lasting >1 month), general health (eg, depression) during the athlete’s career, and current musculoskeletal pain and functional limitations.
Results: 55% were men (44% women, 1% unknown), representing 57 sports (42 Summer, 15 Winter), aged 44.7 years (range 16–97). A total of 3746 injuries were self-reported by 2116 Olympians. This equated, 63.0% (women 68.1%, men 59.2%) reporting at least one significant injury during their Olympic career. Injury prevalence was highest in handball (82.2%) and lowest in shooting (40.0%) for Summer Olympians; and highest in alpine skiing (82.4%) and lowest in biathlon (40.0%) for Winter Olympians. The knee was the most frequently injured anatomical region (20.6%, 120 median days severity), followed by the lumbar spine (13.1%, 100 days) and shoulder/clavicle (12.9%, 92 days). 6.6% of Olympians said they had experienced depression during their career. One-third of retired Olympians reported current pain (32.4%) and functional limitations (35.9%).
Conclusions: Almost two-thirds of Olympians who completed the survey reported at least one Olympic-career significant injury. The knee, lumbar spine and shoulder/clavicle were the most commonly injured anatomical locations. One-third of this sample of Olympians attributed current pain and functional limitations to Olympic-career injury.