Horse riding carries a higher risk of accidents especially for the inexperienced

Health advice is important when a traveller is going abroad and will or could be involved in sporting activities. An obvious health risk is the possibility of accidents specific to the sport involved.

Many travellers attending surgeries or travel clinics are likely to be going abroad to be involved in activities such as skiing, swimming, sailing, cycling, football, rugby, golf, cricket, marathons or horse riding.

An additional hazard is musculoskeletal injuries not so much from an accident but related to the sport due to muscle fatigue, sprains, sometimes fractures, dehydration or exhaustion.

  • Sport can be undertaken as an individual activity when knowledge about what the sport involves may be poor. More may be undertaken than is reasonable for the person's state of fitness.
  • When team sports are involved, the sending organisation may have to follow the health and safety regulations of the country or countries concerned.
Knee and leg injuries are common with skiing
  • The risks vary with the activity involved and the experience of the traveller but for the non-professional individual holiday-maker skiing, cycling and horse riding pose a higher risk of accidents.

Sport at a professional level

At a professional level, sporting organisations usually have very well organised health and sports medicine departments since fitness for competitive sporting activities is an essential and often very costly requirement.

  • Advice at this level is something undertaken by specially trained personnel who are familiar with the medical, financial and legal aspects of organising sporting activities.

Health risks related to travelling for sport

Physical fitness appropriate for the activities to be undertaken can easily be underestimated, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

Further advice may be necessary when sporting activities involve going for short periods for competitions to countries where the climate is very different. Also, athletes sometimes train at high altitude to raise their haemoglobin level and increase their ability to carry oxygen which may improve their performance at lower levels (see course 3)

Some sports risk bleeding injuries more than others
  • Personal attention to lifestyle and behaviour to prevent infections is essential and most vaccinations and precautions against malaria will be the same as for other travellers. If bleeding injuries are more likely, e.g. rugby football, hepatitis B vaccination should be considered.

  • This is more so in countries with poor medical facilities and where there is a possibility of needing emergency surgery, intravenous infusions or blood transfusions.

More general travel health advice for sport reasons

Other health risks are the same as for other travellers (see in particular courses 4-6)

However, since injuries may be more likely, insurance to cover the specific sporting activities involved is important. Insurance companies often specify which sporting activities must be declared.