Written by Juan-Manuel Alonso MD, PhD, Jenny Jacobsson PT, PhD, Paul Dijkstra MD, DPhil
Category: Editorial

Volume 13 | Targeted Topic - Sports Medicine in Athletics | 2024
Volume 13 - Targeted Topic - Sports Medicine in Athletics

Consisting of 48 events, athletics—arguably the ultimate Summer Olympic Sport—continues to excite, thrill, and amaze millions from all around the world! Just relive the magic world-record-breaking moments of Hussain Bolt’s 9.58 seconds in the 100m and Armand Duplantis’s 6.23 metres in the pole vault or Allyson Felix’s 11 Olympic medals (7 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze), and you will understand why. Athletes from more than 200 nations participated in athletics at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo—the ‘highest quality major event in history’ with 3 world records, 12 Olympic records, 28 continental records and 151 national records. These remarkable athletic achievements, however, often come at a huge personal cost; navigating the fine line between injuries and illnesses, and world class performances are no easy task! A stark reminder of the fragility of life came with the tragic news that marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum and his coach died in a road traffic accident in Kenya on Sunday 11 February. He was only 24 years old.  

With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games around the corner, this target topic issue of the Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal—Sports Medicine in Athletics—is a tribute to all the remarkable athletes, coaches, and support staff in athletics. The three of us have been in the trenches of major athletics competitions with some of the best athletes and coaches of all times: Jenny with the Swedish Athletics Federation, Paul with British Athletics, and Juan Manuel with the Spanish Athletics Federation.  We are humbled by the magnificent contributions to this target topic (19 papers in total!) by many athletics friends and colleagues from around the world. 

In this issue—written for healthcare practitioners, scientists, athletes, and coaches—we spotlight the latest evidence for several challenging health and science topics in athletics. Unlike our football friends, we do not claim an ‘athletics medicine’ subfield; we prefer advocating for sports medicine and science in general but with an athletics lens. First, you can read how the athletics world has grappled with the incredibly significant impact of new technologies (focussing on ‘supershoes’) and the related huge performance improvements over the last 3-4 years. 

Second, several papers cover a spectrum of challenging musculoskeletal injuries in athletics, discussing clinically relevant pearls on managing: (i) muscle injuries (calf, rectus femoris and muscle avulsion injuries); (ii) bone stress injuries; (iii) tendon injuries, focussing on patella tendon; (iv) shoulder injuries in throwers, and (v) lower back injuries. Three excellent papers discuss top tips to prevent common injuries in athletics, key aspects of growing and maturation in adolescent athletes, and performing on the world stage after pregnancy.

Third, mental health is a hot topic in sport in general, but also in athletics. Here, you can read about recognising, managing, and preventing mental health conditions in athletes. 

Fourth, (untimely) illness remains a challenge for athletes, coaches, and their support staff. Several factors contribute to an increased risk of illness: (i) environmental conditions (here, we focus on heat and a toolbox to cope with the heat); (ii) travelling to train or compete (read more about a detailed approach to cope with the travelling tightrope); (iii) nutrition (making sense of trends like real time glucose monitoring and the never-ending fat/carb debate…), and (iv) sleep (Sleep to shine – new trends and old ‘secrets’). Don’t miss the paper on top tips to preventing illness.

Fifth, sports cardiology is a growing cardiology subspecialty. Here, experts in the field discuss emerging evidence (and its possible implications) on coronary calcification due to long and intense endurance training as well as atrial fibrillation in endurance runners. However, the important message stands: exercise is good for you!

Last, but certainly not least: the important latest evidence on Relative Energy Deficiency (REDs) in athletics. 

The very final words go to Rio 2016 400 m world record holder and Olympic Champion, Wayde Van Niekerk, interviewed for this issue by Dr Louis Holthausen. We want to spotlight his words on mental health and coming back after an injury: “Something that really stuck with me during the recovery process back from injury was how mentally challenging it will be and how important it is for you to actually invest in what mentally keeps you motivated; what mentally keeps you happy; what mentally still helps you to enjoy things and making you want to do what you do and love what you do.” 

We hope that this Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal target topic will help many athletes to perform to the best of their ability—not only on the world stage, but at every level of the wonderful sport of athletics. 


Juan-Manuel Alonso
MD, PhD 

Sports Medicine Physician


Jenny Jacobsson
PT, PhD 

Sports Physiotherapist


Paul Dijkstra
MD, DPhil 

Sports Medicine Physician


Volume 13 | Targeted Topic - Sports Medicine in Athletics | 2024
Volume 13 - Targeted Topic - Sports Medicine in Athletics

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