The increasingly popular trend of marathon running has led to greater numbers of runners than ever before. The reasons for this are that not only does running strengthen the body, but the numerous events now being organized on a regular basis. For those new to the sport as well as regular runners, including those who have already participated in a number of marathons but would like to beat their personal records, being aware of the athletic potential of our bodies is crucial as it can lead to dangerous health issues or deaths.
Sudden cardiac death is a life-threatening condition that can occur without any prior warning, often affecting runners with undiagnosed health disorders, especially heart disease. The condition is caused by the increased reliance placed on the heart during exercise, leading to a heightened pulse rate that can result in death due to a heart attack while running, as is increasingly prevalent in the news these days. Hence, runners should undergo a health screening program before they begin pushing their physical boundaries by registering for a running event due to the following 5 reasons:
Regular or annual health checkup may not be thorough enough to detect underlying health conditions, particularly heart disease. The continued exertion over an extended period of time can increase pulse rate which can result in sufferers feeling faint and losing consciousness as well as experiencing chest tightness, heart palpitations or a loss of life. There are also some other health disorders that may place runners at risk during an event, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition responsible for the deaths of a number of athletes, such as Mike Webster, a famous American Football player who repeatedly refused to undergo health screening before competing.
It is well known that running a marathon requires mental and physical toughness in order to complete the 42.195-kilometer course, while even those who are just starting out are required to exert a lot more energy than they are used to. This is especially the case when running in hotter locations like Thailand. Moreover, research into this area carried out by Harvard University found that 200-300 young men and women lose their lives while exercising each year, mostly as a result of asthma attacks or heat exhaustion. Therefore, the correct breathing technique, drinking plenty of water while running, and being aware of irregular symptoms should they occur – not just finishing the race at all costs – as well as consulting with a doctor in order to assess your risk level prior to running are all aspects that should not be overlooked.
People with underlying health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, are viewed by many as requiring an increase in physical activity or exercise. However, the truth is that these chronic health disorders could result in obstruction of arteries, leading to reduced circulation to the heart, making strenuous exercise likely to cause more harm than good. Hence, patients with such conditions should always consult their physician before taking up running.
This process is especially crucial for those who have a history of running injuries which may lead to continuous inflammation or swelling and, eventually, chronic pain if sufficient rest is not taken in order for them to make a full recovery. Additionally, runners who have not been trained in terms of technique should undergo this form of screening because it could reduce repeated injuries that may result in a long time out of the sport, or even prohibit them from ever running again should they not receive the proper treatment.
A fitness test involves medical staff carrying out an aerobic test (VO2 max assessment) to measure the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during exercise. If the results are high, it means the patient is extremely fit, so the test could enable them to achieve their full athletic potential in terms of both speed and distance, as well as helping them to make appropriate and effective training programs.
You should always warm up before exercising or playing any form of sport. Running is no different. Runners should also be sure to undergo a detailed health checkup before competing, especially those with underlying health conditions and newcomers to the sport. Furthermore, regular runners who would like to increase their efficiency with regard to increasing their speed and distance covered should also undergo such screening to identify repeat injury risk and reduce the likelihood of chronic pain that could ultimately cut short their running career. Additionally, the aforementioned groups should also undertake a fitness test to ensure their training plans are suited to their capabilities, while also enabling detection of previously undiagnosed health risks which, when identified at the outset, could be a precursor to successful treatment or prevention of a loss of life while running.
The Second Class Honours M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, 1993.