IOC Concerned about Body Composition, Health and Performance of Athletes

The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Medical Commission has set up an “Ad-Hoc Research Working Group on Body Composition, Health and Performance” to address issues related to these topics in weight-sensitive sports, which met in Graz, Austria, last week.

Preventing illness and injury in sport is a pre-condition to promote training adaptations and thus to enable optimal performances. However, the health of the athletes can be severely threatened by current weight loss practices with serious consequences. Therefore, this group has been tasked to:

  1. Identify medical problems due to unhealthy practices in sports leading to extremes of underweight, short term weight reduction, dehydration, or other body composition concerns.
  2. Identify research needs in the field of body composition, health and performance in sport, aiming to develop the scientific basis upon which strategies for improving the health of athletes can be based.
  3. Develop suggestions for practical approaches to address body composition issues and underweight problems in sports.
  4. Seek to identify criteria and methods to assess risks to athletes' health.

Three groups of sports are emphasised:

  • Aesthetic sports, such as rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics, figure skating, diving, synchronised swimming.
  • Weight-category sports, such as wrestling, judo, boxing, light weight rowing, taekwondo.
  • Gravitational sports, such as long distance running, triathlon, road cycling, ski jumping, high jumping.

The working group, which is coordinated by Prof. Dr Wolfram Müller from the University of Graz, Austria, has been set up for two years and, during this period, will provide a forum for information exchange, collate normative data, publish a consensus statement and conduct symposia within the framework of scientific meetings, to name just a few of the several activities envisaged.

Other members of the working group include professors Tim Ackland, Perth, Australia; Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, Oslo, Norway; Tim Lohman Tucson, Arizona, USA; Ron Maughan, Loughborough, UK; Nanna Meyer, Colorado Springs, USA; and Arthur Stewart, Aberdeen, UK.

Read here the consensus statement on Body Composition Health and Performance in Sport produced by the working group.

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