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This article is from the In-Depth Report Winning in the Olympics

Leg and Head Injuries Are Frequent at the Olympics

Athletes are injured frequently—badminton players more so than ski jumpers

We rarely see it happen on television, but one in 10 Olympians will get hurt during the games, if the past is any guide (left). About three quarters of the injuries occur during some phase of competition and one quarter during warm-ups or on-site training, according to Lars Engebretsen of the University of Oslo in Norway, who compiled the data. Summer athletes tend to ruin their legs; winter athletes bang their heads (below). The causes vary greatly: collisions (soccer), stick strikes (field hockey), high-speed wipeouts (bobsledding). The damage leader—snowboard cross—involves frequent contact between boarders in a free-for-all downhill race. Sailing is nearly harm-free. Engebretsen says injury rates in most professional sports, such as football and soccer, are higher, although data are inconsistent.

Graphic by Jen Christiansen, Illustrations by MCKIBILLO; Source: Lars Engebretsen, University of Oslo

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Find a review of leading injuries in specific sports at ScientificAmerican.com/aug2012/graphic-science

This article was originally published with the title "Olympic Hurtfuls."

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