Analysis of injury and illness data collected at large international competitions provides the US Olympic Committee and the national governing bodies for each sport with information to best prepare for future competitions. Research in which authors have evaluated medical contacts to provide the expected level of medical care and sports medicine services at international competitions is limited.
The objective of this study was to analyze the medical-contact data for athletes, staff, and coaches who participated in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, using unsupervised modeling techniques to identify underlying treatment patterns through a descriptive research design. Medical data was recorded from the injury-evaluation and injury-treatment forms used by clinicians assigned to the central US Olympic Committee Sport Medicine Clinic and satellite locations during the operational 17-day period. The authors used principal components analysis and agglomerative clustering algorithms to identify and define grouped modalities. Principal component analyses identified 3 components, accounting for 72.3% of the variability in datasets. Plots of the principal components showed that individual contacts focused on 4 treatment clusters: massage, paired manipulation and mobilization, soft tissue therapy, and general medical.
Unsupervised modeling techniques were useful for visualizing complex treatment data and provided insights for improved treatment modeling in athletes. Given its ability to detect clinically relevant treatment pairings in large datasets, unsupervised modeling should be considered a feasible option for future analyses of medical-contact data from international competitions.