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Olympians flood medical clinic at athletes' village

Second stray bullet lands in equestrian area © Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Second stray bullet lands in equestrian area

RIO DE JANEIRO — For some people, a doctor's visit comes every four years.

A massive polyclinic inside the Olympic Village where athletes are staying during the Rio Games has seen a flood of athletes from underdeveloped countries coming in to get the kind of medical checkups they can't find back home.

Aside from treating athletes who get injured while competing in the Games, the center has provided more than 1,000 dental checks so far, according to Marcelo Patricio, deputy chief medical officer at the clinic. Dentists have run 450 dental X-rays and designed more than specialized 300 mouth guards. Eye doctors have performed 1,730 eye exams, handed out 1,410 sets of prescription glasses and the Games aren't even halfway done.

"They come in for everything," he said with a laugh.

And since anybody who's staying in the Olympic Village has full access to the clinic, Patricio said the most frequent visitors haven't been the athletes, but other members of the delegations who train and take care of the athletes.

One of the most popular stops in the clinic has been the MRI suite. Boston-based GE provided handheld ultrasound machines, X-ray machines and two state-of-the-art MRI machines that have been running nonstop throughout the Games.

Daurio Speranzini Jr., who oversees GE's healthcare operations throughout Latin America, said they have set a very low bar for deciding whether to administer an MRI for athletes who complain of long-term, chronic pain. Because of that, a team of technicians has been conducting about 60 MRI scans a day.

"Those athletes from emerging countries, they really need it," he said. "I don't expect this kind of request from a U.S. guy or a U.K. guy, because they have access to this kind of technology. But in Africa, for example, few countries have this."

Speranzini said Russians and Ukranians have been the most frequent users of the MRI technology.

Patricio, an orthopedic surgeon from Rio, said one of the biggest medical concerns leading up to the Games has ended up being a non-issue. He said doctors from most Olympic delegations bombarded his office with questions about the Zika virus as they arrived in Rio before the Games started.

He outlined to them the precautions Olympic organizers were taking and explained how the mosquito population is very low in Rio because Brazil is going through its winter right now. But so far, the clinic hasn't seen a single case of someone exhibiting signs of the virus.

"Nobody talks about it anymore," he said.

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