The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics has millions of viewers tuning in to watch countries across the globe compete for gold.

For the athletes, one wrong move can be the difference between medaling and not. Beyond that, a single mistake can go so far as to end someone’s career and their Olympic dream.

Dr. Andrew Stoeckl, an Excelsior Orthopaedics surgeon who treats patients at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, talks about how Olympic athletes may endure a variety of injuries that can lead to the development of chronic musculoskeletal issues. 

“Athletes must be aware of their bodies at all times, which means being cognizant of the times they’re most likely to get hurt. 

People might be surprised to find out that severe injuries are less common at the Olympics. Most injuries that occur are related to overuse, including everything from tendonitis to shin splints. Symptoms of overuse are typically swelling, soreness, and pain.

Treatment for these types of issues includes cupping, dry needling, scraping, massage, compression, and ice baths.” 

Andrew Stoeckl, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon, Excelsior Orthopaedics

A Glimpse Into How Olympic Athletes Rehab Their Joints

It’s true: Some Olympic injuries are beyond repair. In 2016, a bad landing off the vault caused French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd to suffer a fractured tibia and fibula. Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali crashed and broke his collarbone, while preparing for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro

As Dr. Stoeckl mentioned, for less severe injuries, Olympic athletes often have access to a variety of treatment options. The hope is that joints can be rehabbed and conditioned to support athletes through competition. 


Identified by the circular suction marks left on athletes’ skin, cupping is comparable to a small vacuum. The pressure created by the suction aids recovery by reducing inflammation and promoting blood flow. 

Dry needling

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture. Needles are strategically inserted into different areas of the skin to access trigger points and act as a pain relief method. 

Scraping and massage

Scraping and massage therapy have the same end goal. One of the only differences is that scraping uses a tool, while a trained masseuse’s tool is their own hands. These forms of therapy are best for strained or overused muscles. 


Compression therapy is popular when targeting an athlete’s legs. Socks, boots, and bandages are worn to apply pressure to a tender or strained area. This pressure loosens the limbs and promotes blood flow, usually reducing recovery time. 

Ice baths

After intense training or competition, sitting in an ice bath for a predetermined amount of time can ease soreness and promote muscle recovery. Similar to compression techniques, freezing temperatures encourage blood vessels to constrict. This reduces swelling and promotes blood flow. 

While you might not be going for the gold at the Olympics, many active people can experience the same injuries and strain on their bodies as these athletes. It’s important to remember that scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic specialist doesn’t mean you’re having surgery!

For individuals suffering from joint pain and other musculoskeletal concerns, our orthopedic specialists at Catholic Health have several alternative treatment options at their disposal. To see a full list of providers, click here.

Find a Orthopedic Specialist Near You
Call (716) 923-7153

Find an Orthopedic Specialist Near You
Call (716) 923-7153