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Olympic Health Problems Minor So Far - 2002-02-15


Olympic officials say three million bandages are among the supplies on hand at Olympic medical clinics, which care for 2,500 athletes more than 200,000 visitors. Most complaints so far have been for minor ailments.

Doctors and nurses are staffing 35 medical clinics, including one at each venue for athletes and another for spectators. Medical officials say they have on hand 70,000 aspirin tablets and 30,000 doses of antacid.

Dr. Dick Price, who oversees medical services for the Winter Olympics, says most problems so far have been minor. "There has been an athlete with a fracture. There have been some ligament injuries to the knees," he says. "And otherwise it's mainly bumps and bruises and more minor kinds of injuries."

Most problems with visitors are caused by influenza or colds, or nausea brought on by the high altitude. And a number of people have fallen on the ice in parking lots. Medical personnel have treated more than 3,000 complaints for both athletes and spectators. Officials expect 10,000 patient visits before the games are over.

In addition to clinic staff, there are 125 mobile medical workers and 150 medics on skis. Among them is an orthopedic surgeon who is also an avid skier.

Doug Fonnesbeck helps coordinate Olympic medical personnel. He says response to the call for volunteers was amazing. "We were really concerned about it, because for physicians and nurses, particularly, have to essentially take their time off as vacation," he says. "And a few of them were a little concerned about it, but we called in friends we knew that wanted to volunteer. And now they're thanking me that they did it."

Olympic officials say the busiest medical centers are those that treat more than 12,000 journalists who are here for the games. They are working in close quarters at several media centers.

Chief physician Dick Price says the rate of clinic visits is higher in Salt Lake City than at the Nagano or Sydney Olympics. He attributes that to a better reporting system.

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