It is perplexing to know that a young, well-trained athlete could suddenly die during a marathon. Such tragic incident devastates the family and the whole community. As a matter of fact, sports itself is not a cause of enhanced mortality but it can trigger sudden death in runners with heart and blood vessel abnormalities.
These abnormalities usually produce no symptoms and the persons who die suddenly during exercise are unaware of their advanced heart disease. Although sudden death in runners is very disturbing, it rarely happens and the benefits of exercise are still recognized to improve the overall quality of life.
The International Marathon Medical Directors Association (IMMDA) has developed the following guidelines in an attempt to reduce the risks of sudden death. To read their recommendations, you can visit the complete details HERE. Note also that IMMDA do not recommend individual running events follow these recommendations as if they are universally valid. They recognize that “blanket” recommendations are not useful due to logistical and political differences in every country and city’s events.
- Have a yearly physical examination by your physician especially if you are over 30 years of age and just started an exercise program. Discuss your exercise plans, goals and intensity and inform your physician if you have a family history of heart disease, stroke or sudden death.
- Have a goal and corresponding race plan that is appropriate for your level of training. Do not attempt the distance if you are not sufficiently trained for that. Do not assume that completing a marathon will give total immunity from coronary heart disease.
- Symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, palpitations, fatigue, excessive or prolonged shortness of breath and fainting during exercise should be evaluated by your physician. They could be a sign of heart or lung disorder.
- During warm months, exercise early in the morning or evening. Also, drink plenty of fluids and avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Consume one baby aspirin (81mg) on the morning of a long run/walk of 10k or more and consume less than 200mg caffeine before and during a 10k or more.
- Take only a sports drink or its equivalent and prevent sodium loss during a workout of at least 10k. Do not consume NSAID during a run or walk of 10k or more and avoid anabolic steroids and stimulants.
- During your last mile, slow down or maintain your pace. Do not sprint unless you have the proper training. Religiously follow your training program.
We can’t prevent sudden deaths but by following the above guidelines, we can avoid the risk of sudden death during a marathon. It’s far better to engage in an exercise program than be sedentary.
An interesting study by Tim Noakes on Sudden Death and Exercise can be read HERE.
Photo above is James Fixx, author of the classic The Complete Book of Running. He died at the age of 54 after his daily run.NOW AVAILABLE. TAKBO.PH COTTON TEES AND HOODIES. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ORDER.
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