Sarah Lewis, left, and Jean-Christophe Rolland, right, have participated in the survey ©WOA

A global study to assess long-term health issues of athletes across all different sports has been launched by the World Olympians Association (WOA).

The study, billed as the largest ever of its kind, is being aimed at around 10,000 Olympics who are no longer competing at an elite level.

It is particularly focusing on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries and the risk factors associated with elite-level sport in this area.

Further studies, though, could target cardiovascular and psychological issues.

It is hoped that the health study will "generate new knowledge on the long-term musculoskeletal and overall general health of Olympians and identify the risk factors associated with elite-level sport in this area".

"We are proud to launch WOA’s Olympian health study, which will greatly enhance the limited existing knowledge of the long-term health impact on Olympians," WOA President and modern pentathlon Olympian Joël Bouzou said

"Our aim is to use this analysis to inform evidence-based recommendations and best-practice guidelines to benefit Olympians and other elite athletes. 

"I would like to thank Dr Debbie Palmer [an Olympic short-track speed skater turned associate professor and researcher in sports injury and illness prevention at Edinburgh Napier University] for leading this vital piece of research and IF (International Federation) leaders Sarah Lewis and Jean-Christophe Rolland for helping to share the important message of this study to Olympians worldwide."

Lewis, secretary general of the International Ski Federation, and Rolland, the Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medal winner and now President of the International Rowing Federation, were among the first to complete the survey.

It is hoped that the findings may help show why athletes in particular sports are susceptible to specific injuries and whether training methods over time have made problems more or less prevalent.

"Much is made of the need to push Olympians to their limit in the pursuit of glory, but as they transition from elite competition to their post-athletic careers their physical health has to be of the utmost importance," said Rolland.

"Olympians push their bodies to extremes and little is known about the long-term effects, but through this study we will be able to gather ground-breaking data that will help to model Olympians’ health and help them as they transition into later life. 

"I am so proud to be backing this initiative - it is truly incredibly important work that the World Olympians Association is doing."