From psychological services, empowerment programs and feedback opportunities, to technological system improvements and collaboration with National Governing Bodies (NGBs), athlete well-being is at the forefront of all that we do. We know it’s supported, fulfilled and healthy athletes who perform at their best and, alongside the Team USA Athletes’ Commission, Athlete Ombuds and other constituent partners, our main priority is to support athletes’ needs every step of the way.
- Getty Images
“ We’re treating the best athletes in the world like the best athletes in the world, and we’re going to take care of their health and well-being so they are healthy citizens and individuals who can lead productive lives while preparing for competitive excellence – all of which advances our mission. ”
Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, Chief Medical Officer
Well-Being And Safety
In 2022, we joined seven existing departments – including athlete and NGB services, sport performance, sports medicine and Games operations, among others – under a single new sport and athlete services department. The aggregation of expertise and focus allows us to best provide holistic athlete support throughout athletes’ journeys as members of Team USA.
Through multidisciplinary team meetings, we convened our world-class health care provider teams across medical, psychological and performance services, who together support our athletes’ nutrition, physiology, strength and conditioning needs.
In 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reaffirmed its 2009 commitment to protecting athletes’ health by naming 11 specialist organizations around the world as IOC Research Centers 2023-2026. The United States Coalition for the Prevention of Illness & Injury in Sport at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute and The University of Utah was re-certified as one of the institutions.
- Getty Images
As COVID-19 restrictions lifted, we were able to reopen the Medical Volunteer Program and bring in expert medical providers from across the country to support Team USA athletes at our training centers/sites and expand the medical staff in our clinics.
The sports medicine team also completed Elite Athlete Health Profiles (EAHPs) with over 100 athletes, serving as a comprehensive sport physical and identifying an athlete’s current health status to ensure safe participation in sport. The profiles can serve as an entry point for specialized medical care and are a tool for longitudinal health monitoring. In addition, we integrated a new electronic medical record system, enabling us to communicate immediately and directly with health care providers wherever athletes train and compete, and also identify trends ahead of time to modify risk factors.
We continued research on the connection between concussions and mental health, with plans to release findings in 2023. In addition to head injuries and mental health, we progressed ongoing research focused on both Paralympic athletes and women’s health.
Beijing Games Support
Getting Team USA to and from the Beijing Games safely was a feat of careful planning and execution. High COVID-19 rates, testing requirements and strict host country and organizing committee rules required precise planning and communication, as well as expanded resources and stakeholder perseverance.
Once in Beijing, Team USA lived in the Olympic and Paralympic Athletes’ Village and trained in an Olympic and Paralympic “bubble.” At the close of the Beijing Games, we could proudly say we got nearly 600 individuals to and from the Games safely – an accomplishment in and of itself.
- Getty Images
- Getty Images
In the face of many logistics and safety precautions – including producing two negative P.C.R. tests within 96 hours of departure – the delegation quarantined in Los Angeles then traveled to and from Beijing on Delta Airlines’ first-ever, Team USA charter flight. The moment proved to be an exciting one for athletes, who were met with a red-carpet send-off and a Team USA-tailored, in-flight experience.
- Getty Images
Tearing down the slalom course at the Beijing Olympics, American Alpine skier Nina O’Brien experienced a terrible crash that left her with a severe leg and foot injury.
Due to China’s zero COVID-19 policy, only one medical provider could accompany Nina to the hospital, which was outside of the Olympic Games bubble. China would not allow air ambulances into their airspace, so we had to rework transportation methods for injured athletes, including making special arrangements to ensure Nina’s safe and expedited return to the United States for surgery.
Surgeons assumed Nina would face a long recovery. But nine months after the crash, Nina stunned her coaches and doctors as she completed a slalom run at the first World Cup races of the season in Finland.
“They do say broken bones heal back stronger,” O’Brien said. “You just never believe it.”
- Getty Images
Collaboration with NGBs
When it comes to athlete excellence, NGBs are often the first and primary point of contact for athletes. Over the past year, we continued to engage and collaborate with NGBs to better coordinate athlete care.
In 2022, we held our first on-site NGB Medical Conference, which assembled health care providers from across the Olympic and Paralympic movements for educational and hands-on trainings focused on topics including the management of medical and mental health emergencies.
We also established NGB minimum medical standards recommendations, as some NGBs were previously operating without a health care provider, while others had intricate medical infrastructures. To bolster our support, we created an NGB Medical Standards Working Group with representation from NGB medical leads, the athlete community and the USOPC, as well as input from international colleagues such as Team Great Britain and the IOC.
With women representing half of Team USA’s athlete population, and Team USA women continuing to set the standard for medal success, including in the most recent Games, where they collectively won over 58% of the medals, our sports medicine team focused in on the unique challenges and opportunities women athletes may face. We formed a dedicated Women’s Health Taskforce comprised of world-class clinicians, athletes and service providers across various specialties, which focused outreach and education on topics such as menstrual cycles, training, breast health, sexual abuse and trauma and reproductive health.
The taskforce also supported the Female Athlete Voice project in collaboration with Stanford University, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University and the University of Washington. Through this work, we conducted a focused athlete survey, which captures the voices and perspectives of 40 Team USA female Olympic and Paralympic athletes, yielding 14 priority topics important to Team USA female athletes. Among the topics were the impact of menstrual cycles on training and performance, the impact of female physiology on recovery processes, mental skills and the effects of specific types of birth control options.
We’re excited to share these results following their submission for peer review and publication in a scientific journal.
- Getty Images
At the USOPC, we are proud of our world-renowned, industry-leading psychological services program and all that it means in terms of being able to support Team USA athletes.
Further advancing our program, in 2022, we combined our mental health and sport psychology teams under the psychological services umbrella, providing athletes with one touchpoint across mental health and mental performance.
Over the past year, we continued to grow and diversify our services. This included expanding to 10 licensed sports psychologists and training more than 270 coaches, staff, athletes and other stakeholders in mental health first aid. We also continued to expand our Mental Health Registry of highly qualified, licensed mental health providers with experience working with elite athletes, built to ensure athletes have the power to choose a provider who meets their needs, expectations and comfort level.
Through an initial $1.5M donation from the Rieschel Family Foundation, we have been able to grow and expand our mental health services, support athletes on the ground in Beijing and continue to provide world-class resources daily – from on-site support including having five mental health officers at the Beijing Games, to growing our Mental Health Assistance Fund and Mental Health Registry.
- Getty Images
Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel had to pull out of the 2022 World Championships marathon due to a sacrum fracture – but other health issues were also at play. Earlier that year, she was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, with symptoms that included depression, anxiety and the return of an eating disorder. Ahead of the World Championships, Molly’s responses to the USOPC’s mental health screening raised red flags, ultimately leading USOPC doctors to refer her to specialists for treatment.
“USOPC set up everything for me and they’re continuing treatment for me. Honestly it was so much easier being able to have them take the reins on it. And feel very much like, ‘Okay, they’re going to help me out on this.’
With the help of her mental health team and dietitian, along with lifestyle changes, Molly is focused on getting healthy and back to competing for Team USA.
- Getty Images
Three-time Paralympic medalist, Deja Young-Craddock, has seen first-hand the importance of wellness in both body and mind and what it means to care for oneself.
Throughout Young-Craddock’s journey of balancing athletic success with succeeding across other facets of life – from training and competing to studying and socializing – Young-Craddock began to feel overwhelmed, anxious and depressed, and ultimately sought professional help prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympics. She went on to compete at the Games where she won two gold medals.
Since, Young-Craddock has focused on breaking the stigma around mental illness by sharing her story to show those facing similar challenges that they too can overcome them.
“When [our coaches] step up and speak openly about mental health, I love seeing that barrier breaking. I feel like maybe five or six years ago it wasn’t that way. At that time, it was like politics and religion; you don’t want people to be uncomfortable, so you don’t talk about it. Now my coaches and teammates will do mental health checks.”
To further emphasize our commitment to our athlete’s well-being and safety, we continued to raise the bar on athlete support as we expanded our mental health screenings, including the use of the assessment at the Junior Pan American Games and the Beijing Winter Games. Through screening expansion, we have captured critical information on the mental health of Team USA athletes, ultimately allowing us to modify our resources to best support athletes. A key step in the process included a personal follow-up by a member of the psychological services team within 15 minutes for any screened athlete who reported self-harm or suicidal ideation, and outreach for all other concerns within 48 hours.
2022 Athlete Development and Engagement Services
services used by the average athlete
The life of an elite athlete is a journey, and we’re with them every step of the way. From entry to training and competing, to their transition out of sport, we strive to create a championship life for athletes.
As part of that, our athlete development and engagement team provides athletes with support beyond sport, connecting them to a trusted community of mentors and resources, from education scholarships and career coaching to financial services and transition services – all to support athletes in achieving excellence in all areas of life.
We awarded more than $1.4 million in tuition grants in 2022, which athletes can use for programs that advance their career including degrees, certificates and professional development and training courses.
- Tony Rotundo
Amid conversations about equal pay amplified by the U.S. women’s soccer team, we supported the Cantwell-Capito Equal Pay for Team USA Act – a bill ensuring all athletes who represent the U.S. in global competition, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games, receive equal pay and benefits – including medical care, travel and expenses – regardless of gender. The bill was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2022 and was signed into law by President Biden in 2023. Beginning in 2023, we will conduct annual oversight and report on compliance with the law.
The USOPC's Pivot Program is a a 4-day, in-person program for athletes navigating their transition out of sport. It is designed to support athletes in exploring values, reframing identity, understanding transitions and the emotions that come with change, and rediscovering self and purpose through meaningful discussions with other athletes.
"The Pivot Program brought me together with other athletes who are going through the same experiences with transition. I do not feel alone. I am looking forward to using the tools that I learned during the program to navigate my transition." - Team USA Athlete & 2022 Pivot Program Participant
2022 career, education and transition highlights
given in grants
athletes impacted by grants
athletes served across 55 sports
“ Training, competing and education consumes my life, and I work hard to balance everything. It is challenging to strive for perfection in all areas and it is even more of a challenge trying to work to pay for my education. The help I receive through the tuition grant allows me to focus on my training, racing and studying. ”
Team USA Athlete
- Getty Images
Athlete Marketing Platform
Amid the evolving name, image and likeness landscape, we created the Athlete Marketing Platform (AMP) in 2021 to provide athletes with opportunities to earn commercial revenue and improve their financial well-being. Under this pilot program and the Rule 40 expansion, the number of Team USA athletes with at least one personal endorsement deal has continued to increase.
active athletes represented across all sports
of athletes at the Beijing Games 2022 had 1+ personal endorsement deal (vs. 3% at Pyeongchang 2018)
average deal value
unique athletes with deals
*Based on available data from Rule 40 monitoring
Athlete Listening and Sentiment
Understanding where we are meeting athletes' needs and where we can improve is key to fulfilling our mission and building a culture where athletes feel safe, supported, heard and valued.
One way we’re ensuring athlete voices are central to our conversations is by guaranteeing them a seat at the table on USOPC boards and committees, working groups and more. We also work closely with the Team USA Athletes' Commission (Team USA AC), which helps broaden communication between USOPC and active athletes, in addition to helping inform and advise the USOPC board of directors. We collaborate with the Team USA AC and an independent research firm to issue annual athlete surveys and gather important feedback. Through our 2022 Athlete Listening Survey, we heard from 370 current and former Team USA athletes. We realize this is only a portion of our Team USA population, and as we look ahead, we are focusing on how we can engage and hear from as many Team USA athletes as possible.
From the survey responses we received, we gleaned several key takeaways for the USOPC:
- Getty Images
Trust and satisfaction
The USOPC has an opportunity to build greater trust within the athlete community. Most athletes surveyed are proud of their achievements and experiences with Team USA. Athletes indicated trust in the institution is the number one driver of satisfaction, but this has declined since 2021.
The USOPC can address a needs gap with impactful resources. Satisfaction with physical well-being has declined, and financial and social well-being satisfaction remain low. Gaps exist when it comes to financial support and management skills, physical therapy, transition plans for retired athletes and networking.
The USOPC can work to improve awareness of the many resources and services available. Awareness of organizations and services has increased, but familiarity and involvement are stagnant. Many athletes don’t understand key terms and processes for eligibility and allocation of resources, and many benefits that the USOPC offers go underutilized due to a lack of awareness.