As Americans Prepare to Cheer on Olympians in Paris, SOS Sports Medicine Physicians Remind Amateur Athletes to Play it Safe in their Sports

Athletes from around the country are gearing up for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which are set to start in Paris on July 26. The eyes of the world will be on the elite athletes competing for the gold. As the pinnacle of athletic performance, the Olympics demand peak physical condition and expose athletes to high risks of injury.

Paris Olympics 2024

The Sports Medicine doctors at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS) are also Olympian enthusiasts and remind local athletes that if they are inspired by the stunning performances of the Olympians to try a new sport, remember to play smartly. “It’s thrilling to watch Olympians excel at their sport, and their skill makes it look easy,” says Todd Battaglia, MD, head of the SOS Sports Medicine team and president of SOS. “Many people may be motivated to try a new sport after watching the Olympics, but it is important to train and prepare properly in order to avoid injury.”

Even elite athletes with diligent training regimens can experience injury during the Olympics. The most common orthopedic injuries among these athletes involves overuse due to excessive training. Sports such as gymnastics, rowing, shooting, archery, golf, table tennis, and swimming frequently see overuse-type injuries, including tendonitis, strains, or stress fractures. Higher-risk Olympic sports frequently involve contact and have a higher rate of sudden, traumatic injury. No matter how much training you have, you cannot always account for the athletes around you or unexpected terrain. The Olympic events with the greatest rate of annual injury are:

• Cycling: About 38% of BMX cyclists sustain an injury.
• Boxing: About 30% of Olympic boxers are injured during practice or competition.
• Taekwondo: 24% of athletes sustain an injury.
• Equestrian: Falls with or from a horse can be devastating.

Olympic athletes train long and hard to compete, and in addition to physical training, recovery plays a vital role in preventing orthopedic injuries. Athletes must prioritize rest and recuperation to allow their bodies to heal and adapt to the demands of high-intensity training. Nutritional support, including adequate protein intake and hydration, also contributes to the body's ability to repair and strengthen tissues. It is important that amateur athletes also train carefully and properly rest. The SOS Sports Medicine team shares these tips for athletes going for their own gold:

• Warm up properly by stretching. Stretching exercises can improve the muscles' ability to contract and perform, reducing the risk for injury.
• Know and abide by the rules of any sport, as rules are designed for player safety.
• Cool down after any sport or exercise.
• Wear the appropriate equipment and protective gear for your sport. Protective pads, mouth guards, helmets, gloves and other equipment can be key in preventing injuries.
• Appropriate footwear should be worn, as shoe support may correct certain foot problems that can lead to injury.
• Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after play to keep your body hydrated.
• Always inspect the playing field for uneven terrain, glass, and other debris.
• Assess weather conditions and be prepared to delay/cancel activity, especially in cases of particularly hot weather or thunderstorms with lightning.

Preventing orthopedic injuries in Olympic athletes and weekend warriors is a continuous process that requires vigilance. By integrating training and recovery techniques athletes can minimize their risk of injury and perform at their best. A collaboration between athletes, coaches, and medical professionals is essential to safeguarding the health and longevity of athletes, ensuring they can achieve their performance goals while maintaining their physical well-being. Should injury occur, members of the SOS team are ready and available to care for you.