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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The Olympics have been a resource for medical research, insights, and innovation for almost a century, suggests a perspective recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Several Olympic venues resulted in concerns about the environmental and public health conditions during the games as well as the safety of the athletes, writes David Jones M.D., Harvard Medical School.
For example, Roger Bannister M.D., the Olympic medalist who was the first to run a mile under four minutes, disapproved of the high altitude conditions for the games prior to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
While Jones explains Bannister was a contrarian at the time, Jones writes (and we quote): ‘Indeed several hundred athletes collapsed at those Olympics, from migraine, shock, syncope (fainting), or emotional excitement’ (end of quote).
Similarly, Jones finds other physicians warned of poor public health conditions before the Olympic games in Seoul in 1988 and four years later in Barcelona. The concerns in Seoul were exposure to Japanese encephalitis and in Barcelona the apprehension centered on contact with and treatment for a multidrug-resistant strep infection.
While the latter warnings met with vehement rebuttals, Jones notes the long-term impact of medical apprehension seems to have been therapeutic. He writes (and we quote): ‘Olympic events….now require careful medical and public health planning’ (end of quote).
Even with more prudent preparation, Jones adds some recent unanticipated events, such as the bombing that killed two and injured 118 during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, resulted in significant additions -- such as enhanced comprehensive emergency response preparation at Olympic venues.
Jones notes medical researchers have assessed the impact of Olympic training on human physiology for almost 90 years. The initial concern about the impact of Olympic training and pressure to succeed began during the 1924 Paris games when French clinicians noted a number of heart abnormalities among participating athletes. Incidentally, Jones reports the 1924 games were the first time a team physician accompanied U.S. Olympians. I found the latter fact sort of astonishing.
More recently, Jones notes a 1985 article condemned the use of blood transfusions by cyclists at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as use of medical therapy to provide athletes with an unfair advantage. A 1996 study found elite gymnastics training and routines (and we quote) ‘could result in serious, life-endangering physical and psychological disabilities’ (end of quote).
Overall, Jones suggests medical research for and about Olympians provides insights regarding human endurance and limits, which has made a significant difference in the development of sports medicine, treatment of sports injuries, and even disaster preparedness around the world.
Although there are medical risks from Olympic competition, Jones suggests the medical research about athletes rewards all who exercise and the research about safer venues improves public health.
MedlinePlus.gov’s sports safety health topic page provides a gateway to the sports medicine research that Jones introduces. There are links to safe participation in: ballet and dance, football, gymnastics, skiing, skating, golf, basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, yoga, and volleyball (among others) within the ‘specific conditions’ section.
You can find out about safe athletic shoes, helmets, mouth guards, eye protection, and trampolines in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s sports safety health topic page.
A recommended website from the Nemours Foundation (available in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s sports safety health topic page) provides information about preventing children’s sports injuries.
MedlinePlus.gov’s sports safety health topic page additionally contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the sports safety health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s sports safety health topic page, type ‘sports safety’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘sports safety (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages devoted to sports injuries, sports fitness, and fitness and exercise.
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A disclaimer – the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider. I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the 'Director's Comments' podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company – and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2012.
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