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At Tokyo Olympics, high rate of injuries in new sports

Athletes competing in the newly introduced Olympic sports of BMX freestyle, karate and skateboarding suffered the highest rates of injuries

The Olympic Rings outside the National Stadium, the main venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (REUTERS)

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Athletes competing in the newly introduced Olympic sports of BMX freestyle, karate and skateboarding suffered some of the highest rates of injuries at the Tokyo Games, new research showed. The three new events were among the top five with the most injuries at the 2020 Summer Olympics, which was held in 2021 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

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Boxing and BMX racing had the highest rates, with 27 percent of competitors getting injured, according to a study carried out by researchers from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Next came the new events of BMX freestyle, which had 22 percent of its athletes injured, followed by skateboarding with 21 percent and karate with 19 percent, said the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Other new events had fewer injuries, including sport climbing with a rate of 15 percent, surfing with 13 percent and 3x3 basketball with 11 percent. The study's lead author Torbjorn Soligard, who works in the IOC's medical and scientific department, told AFP "it is important to note that more than half the injuries recorded did not lead to any time lost from competition".

IOC researchers have tracked injuries and illnesses in every Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games. More than 11,300 athletes from 206 national teams were monitored in Tokyo, with more than a thousand injuries recorded.

Overall, nine percent of athletes in Tokyo suffered an injury, comparable to eight percent at the 2016 Rio Games, 11 percent at the 2012 London Olympics and 10 percent in Beijing. Tokyo saw the lowest rate of sickness ever recorded at an Olympics -- it was conducted under strict Covid-19 restrictions -- with 3.9 illnesses per 100 athletes, compared to 5.4 in Rio and 7.2 in London.

"This might largely be attributed to the extensive countermeasures put in place to mitigate Covid-19, effectively reducing transmission of Covid-19 and all respiratory infections," the study's authors said. Less than 0.2 percent of the athletes caught Covid.

Newly introduced sports were also among the most injury prone at the Tokyo Paralympics, with taekwondo and badminton among the top four with the highest rates, according to a parallel study. Eight percent of Paralympians were injured in Tokyo, a drop from the 12 percent recorded at both the Rio and London Games, however the injuries that were suffered were more severe, the researchers found.

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