Domhnall MacAuley: Olympic fatigue syndrome

Domhnall MacauleySquare eyes and pressure sores. Emotional exhaustion. Sensory overload. These Olympics are overwhelming. I need a rest. But, expecting symptoms of withdrawal in a few days. Thank goodness we haven’t had much input from doctors.  Steve Peters, a psychiatrist who has been involved with international cycling for many years, did appear to tell us about psychological preparation and support and he was great. But the only docs are athletes-  I recognised Tim Brabants from canoeing, and Joanne Cuddihy, an Irish runner, but I know there were others.  And, wonderful to see Sir Roger Bannister sitting with Seb Coe during the 1500m.

What about sick notes? We GPs know all about dodgy sick notes and I expect we might have issued a few iffy certs to patients these last two weeks. But, what about our unfortunate colleague who was asked to write a sick note for the Algerian runner who was too poorly to make it around the 800m? No problem, except that he galloped off into the distance in the 1500m without a care in the world. Miraculous recovery.  Ah, the wonders of modern medicine.

Didn’t you cringe watching the NHS in the opening ceremony?  Of course, primary care felt a bit left out. Where were the GPs in sports coats with leather patches on the elbows, or empathetic cardigans?  We needed a thousand Dr Finlays nodding wisely and signing repeats.

All rowing and cycling and running and swimming. It makes you feel good. I am glued to the TV and can only drag myself off to bed when the last presenter has left the building.  When I found myself watching the archery, I knew I had a problem. But, the Olympics are addictive and I could bore you silly talking about it.  I am an expert now in every sport!

These  athletes are  magnificent.  Average patients make you forget about the beauty of the human body.  And, while there are tears and broken hearts, I can only marvel how articulate and insightful these athletes are in front of the camera- even with such intrusion immediately after hugely disappointing failure. Much better than the usual mumbling medical expert.

This festival is about fairytales. The triumph of the good fairy, giants, great feats of strength, tears and happy endings. (I don’t really believe in fairy tales but, thankfully, so far we have been spared news of magic potions). And, for the moment, I am quite happy to believe in magic wheels.

Does it make you feel like exercising? Let me do a fitness test. Do you remember Olga Korbut?  If you do, see your cardiologist before you exercise.  People of our age still see her as a pert smiling teenager. And, think of ourselves as still young and fit.  Seeing her on TV should remind us the time has moved on. She looked great….for her age.  Take it easy jogging. And, don’t ring me next week. I have some sleep to catch up on.

Domhnall MacAuley is primary care editor, BMJ.