Some of the PTs working at the main polyclinic during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Study confirms important role of physical therapy at Olympic Games

Physical therapists provided a total of 1778 treatment sessions during the London 2012 Olympic Games, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

The study says that there was a global reliance on physical therapy support across a wide spectrum of countries during the 2012 Olympic Games, with every continent making use of the centralised PT service provided by the National Olympic Committee and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). People from Africa and America were the most frequent users.

The study was led by Dr Marie-Elaine Grant, the physiotherapy representative on the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission. It used data from the electronic records system at the main polyclinic in the athlete’s village in Stratford, London. 

The most frequently reported causes of injury at first visit were overuse (43.6%) and non-contact trauma (23.8%). Pre-existing injuries accounted for almost half of the 436 first visit encounters. 

An unexpected finding was that 15% of encounters with physical therapy services did not involve injury at all. 

“While no specific data were recorded regarding the reason for the consultation, it is reasonable to conclude that the physiotherapy encounters focused on maintaining physical function and enhancing recovery have a role to play in supporting athlete performance,” the study said.

Dr Marie-Elaine Grant, who runs a private physiotherapy clinic in Dublin, Ireland, told WCPT News that the research and its publication were only possible because of the outstanding achievement of the London 2012 LOCOG PT team.

“I considered this research project very important as this paper marks the first International Olympic Committee’s physiotherapy publication,” she said. “This is a very positive step forward in demonstrating the very important work our profession undertakes during the Olympic Games and the extent to which athletes rely on our services.”

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