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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and Psychonaught

IOC Needle Policy: How Effective Is It Really?

Tracey Romero • Thu, November 30th, 2017

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Questions remain about the effectiveness of the “International Olympic Committee Needle Policy” after it was implemented during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In a study, “Needle-use declarations at the Olympic Games Rio 2016,” published on November 21, 2017 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Andrew Pipe, CM, M.D., LLD(Hon), DSc)Hon), professor of prevention and rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues reviewed the “Injection Declaration Forms” submitted during the summer games to measure compliance rates.

According to the results, 367 declarations were submitted by physicians from 49 National Olympic Committees (NOCs). They were most commonly submitted in gymnastics, football and aquatics. In more than half of the cases, only one product was administered. The most common uses were of local anesthetics, glucocorticoids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics.

The researchers wrote that “the policy was intended to empower physicians to ensure appropriate clinical use of needles within team medical environments, enhance the safety of those responsible for housekeeping services and others in the Olympic environment, and permit documentation of such procedures as an adjunct to the doping control programme.”

The low number of declaration, however, bring up the questions of whether less teams are using needles or if the policy is not being enforced enough.

Pipe told OTW that some of the challenges of conducting the study included, “ensuring awareness of the policy, facilitating submission/receipt of the declarations, recognizing nature/names of substances injected; and, more prosaically, reading sometimes illegible writing.”

In his opinion, Pipe felt that the low number of needle declarations was due to the “lack of ease/familiarity with the submission process and the inexperience of some clinicians from smaller NOCs”.

Pipe said that they need to continue to evaluate processes like these which are new to the elite sport setting and try to assess how influential they all are on clinical practice.

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