Sport Medical Officers unite for athlete health and safety

Australia’s COVID-19 response has put the nation in a strong position leading into next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, says Australia Institute of Sport (AIS) Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes.

Dr Hughes, also Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Olympic team, said Australian sport’s quick and thorough response to COVID had positioned it well leading into a revised Olympic and Paralympic year in 2021.

“This year has clearly been quite unique,” Dr Hughes said. “We started the year with major disruption to sport as a result of bushfire smoke. No sooner had the smoke started to settle than we saw the arrival of COVID-19.

“Both of these issues required sport to pivot and find new ways of working. Through close collaboration among the medical leaders in sport, we were able to minimise the impact on sport, while maintaining a focus on athlete safety and wellbeing.

“Next year is going to pose its own challenges, not the least of which will be ensuring that Australian sport has appropriate processes in place to safely prepare for and participate in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Australia has a natural advantage being isolated from the rest of the world, but athletes and sports will increasingly look at overseas travel to either qualify or gain international competition in preparation for Tokyo. There are many reports of COVID-19 infection in international sporting environments.

“The AIS continues to work closely with our partners in the Australian Olympic Committee and Paralympics Australia to ensure we provide the most updated information available in relation to preparations for Tokyo.

“There are still several months between now and the scheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and the COVID-19 environment changes quickly, so we need to stay vigilant. But when you look at the situation facing many countries around the world, we can be satisfied to this point that our athletes and teams are well placed heading into the new year.”

The AIS played a leading role in Australia’s return to sport once COVID began. The AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment helped inform the development of the Return to Sport National Guiding Principles endorsed by National Cabinet in May.

The Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled to 23 July to 8 August, while the Paralympics are set for 24 August to 5 September.

Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth and head of Clinical Research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Dr André La Gerche, were among the key speakers.

The conference also discussed the health impacts of bushfire pollution, the governance of digital sport data and diverse gender inclusion in sport.

David Hughes

/Sport Australia Public Release. View in full here.