Olympics and Medicine By The Numbers

October 7, 2012

By Tracey Liebman

Faculty Peer Reviewed

The summer games may be over, but we’re still entertained by the 2012 Olympics! Here are a few medicine-related fun facts about the London Games.

Demographics of Summer 2012 Olympics:

10,500 athletes, 70,000+ volunteers, 20,000 media and journalists, 10+ million spectators [1]

Medical care:

26 million dollars provided by the National Health Service (NHS) to build the state-of-the-art medical building in the Athletes’ Village for the Olympics [2]

500 people expected to use the medical clinic each day [2]

46 sports medicine doctors, 80 other specialists on call at the clinic [2]

95% of cases expected to be minor illnesses or injuries [2]


1055 injuries reported in 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, 72.5% of injuries occurred during competition [3]

11.2% of athletes in 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics reported injuries [4]

Top 10 biker in prior Olympics, British cross-country mountain biker suffered from a fractured ankle after falling on rocks during the race [5]

162 kg lift attempted by South Korean weightlifter, but athlete ended up with a dislocated elbow [6]

7th place in floor routine, World Champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber was found to have a possible stress fracture in her leg [7]


1364 food, swab, cloth, and water samples collected from London vendors to evaluate for good hygiene procedures in preparation for the Olympics. 8% of food samples and 52% of water samples were of unsatisfactory quality [9]

3-5% projected increased demand for medical care in London during the Olympics 22761253 [10]

1100 cases of measles in England and Wales in the past year – thus, Americans were strongly encouraged to be vaccinated prior to traveling to Olympics [11]

Athletes and doping:

6.8% of young elite athletes admitted to doping in a 2010 anonymous survey, though doping tests only reveal 0.81% prevalence of doping [12]

3 cross country skiers at 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics found to have darbopoeitin in their urine. Their 8 medals were sanctioned [13]

5 athletes disqualified from 2008 Beijing Olympics for using a long-acting 3rd-generation EPO [13]

47,361 square feet of space for one new anti-doping laboratory in London, functioning 24 hours/day [14]

6000 blood and urine tests predicted to be carried out during London Olympics [15]

150 antidoping scientists carrying out the tests [15]

2 sports in London games in which beta blockers are prohibited: shooting and archery [16]

31-year-old shot-putter disqualified in London Olympics and stripped of her gold medal due to testing positive for the steroid metenolone [17]

23-year-old Syrian 400-meter hurdler disqualified from London Olympics for using stimulant methylhexaneamine [18]

73-kg-class, 23-year old American Judo competitor disqualified from London Olympics due to testing positive for marijuana [19]

23 athletes provisionally suspended, 7 athletes disqualified during London Olympic Games [20]


8 to 12,000 – number of calories reportedly consumed daily by Olympian Michael Phelps [8]

Tracy Liebman is a medical student (Internal Medicine), NYU Langone Medical Center

Peer Reviewed by Neil Shapiro, Editor-In-Chief, Clinical Correlations


1. http://www.london2012.com/mm%5CDocument%5CPublications%5CJoinin%5C01%5C24%5C08%5C88%5Ceveryones-games.pdf

2. Torjesen I. Olympic site polyclinic “will be most tangible health legacy” of games, says medical chief. BMJ 2012;344:e4334.

3. Junge A, Engebretsen L, Mountjoy ML, et al. Sports injuries during the Summer Olympic Games 2008. The American journal of sports medicine 2009;37:2165-72.

4. Willis C, Elviss N, Aird H, Fenelon D, McLauchlin J. Evaluation of hygiene practices in catering premises at large-scale events in the UK: Identifying risks for the Olympics 2012. Public health 2012;126:646-56.

5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18908685

6. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/olympics-fourth-place-medal/weightlifter-sa-jae-hyouk-dislocates-elbow-london-olympics-083825819–oly.html

7. http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/48552157/ns/sports-olympic_sports/

8. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/07/24/157317262/how-many-calories-do-olympic-athletes-need-it-depends

9. Willis C, Elviss N, Aird H, Fenelon D, McLauchlin J. Evaluation of hygiene practices in catering premises at large-scale events in the UK: Identifying risks for the Olympics 2012. Public health 2012;126:646-56.

10. Torjesen I. Doctors will see increased demand during Olympics despite preparations. BMJ 2012;345:e4585.

11. Tanne JH. US travellers to the London Olympics are warned about contracting measles. BMJ 2012;344:e2357.

12. Striegel H, Ulrich R, Simon P. Randomized response estimates for doping and illicit drug use in elite athletes. Drug and alcohol dependence 2010;106:230-2.

13. Fitch K. Proscribed drugs at the Olympic Games: permitted use and misuse (doping) by athletes. Clin Med 2012;12:257-60.

14. Kayser B, Broers B. The Olympics and harm reduction? Harm reduction journal 2012;9:33.

15. Hunger M. Would-be cheats face barrage of tests at London Olympics. BMJ 2011;343:d5847.

16. http://www.wada-ama.org/Documents/World_Anti-Doping_Program/WADP-Prohibited-list/2012/WADA_Prohibited_List_2012_EN.pdf

17. http://espn.go.com/olympics/summer/2012/trackandfield/story/_/id/8263960/2012-london-olympics-belarus-shot-putter-nadzeya-ostapchuk-stripped-gold-doping

18. http://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-disqualifies-hurdler-almouhamad-for-anti-doping-violation/172166

19. http://articles.cnn.com/2012-08-06/worldsport/sport_olympics-delpopolo-marijuana-makhloufi_1_usoc-drug-test-marijuana

20. http://www.dopinglist.com/?action=news&news=ar