Health Issues at the Olympics

Aaahhhhh….the Olympics.  The time where one becomes an expert in a sport they only watch once every 4 years (“What were the curlers thinking with that move?!?”, “That ski jump was way more difficult than the other that got a higher score!”).  I have enjoyed watching this Olympics more than prior years.  One reason is that there were many teenagers doing really teenagery things (I’m aware teenagery is not a word, but it should be).  There’s the 17 year old gold medal snowboarder, Red Gerard, who overslept on competition day after a night of binge-watching Netflix (and he couldn’t find his coat, so had to borrow someone else’s).  Another 17 year old gold medal snowboarder, Chloe Kim, tweeted about her dietary habits in between her runs.  It’s good to see all the Olympic fame hasn’t changed them.

In times where the speeds are faster than ever and events are completed with record-high scores, there are 2 things about each Olympics that remain a constant: infections and body image issues.

At this Olympics, the athletes were greeted with 110,000 condoms. That’s enough for each athlete to use 37 condoms during the 2.5 weeks. Amazingly, this number falls way short of the 450,000 condoms that were doled out at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. That’s a lot of sex.

This year, the Olympics had an infection to worry about other than those that are sexually transmitted: Norovirus. This virus can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, and can be transmitted from person to person or through contaminated food or water.  I can’t imagine how upset I’d be if I had trained hard in my sport for many years, only to have explosive diarrhea during my event. Major bummer.

One of the things I do NOT like about the Olympics is that I am reminded that I will never be the best in the world at something, and neither will the majority of humans.  And us mere mortals always find something for which to criticize these incredible athletes (body shaming, hair shaming, not being patriotic enough at your gold medal ceremony, etc). For example, in the summer 2016 Olympics, one gymnast found that her body was being discussed more than her performance.  Therefore, it should be of no surprise that many Olympic athletes struggle with body image issues. Adam Rippon, the ice skater who gives fantastic interviews, has been very open with his struggle with his own body image.  Eating disorders have been prevalent in many Olympic sports, from ice-skating to swimming. Two athletes (Gracie Gold of the United States and Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia) withdrew from the winter Olympics in order to get treatment for their eating disorders. This year, Norway did everyone a solid and did not list the weights of their athletes out of respect for those struggling with body image issues.  Honestly, why should we care about the weight of the men’s hockey team (or any other athlete for that matter)?  Good job, Norway.  Hopefully more countries will follow suit.