The potentially negative impact of extreme endurance events has recently been garnering attention. A new study takes a deeper look at the health profiles of event participants.

Published in PLOS ONE (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083867), the Ultrarunners Longitudinal Tracking Study included 1,212 active ultramarathon runners. Participants completed a Web-based survey that asked about training protocols, medical issues and running-related injuries in the previous 12 months.

“The most prevalent chronic medical conditions were allergies/hay fever (25.1%) and exercise-induced asthma (13.0%). [There] was a low prevalence of serious medical issues including cancers (4.5%), coronary artery disease (0.7%), seizure disorders (0.7%), diabetes (0.7%), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (0.2%),” reported the authors.

However, 67% of respondents had experienced a running-related injury; the knee was the most commonly injured area. Study authors noted that this is similar to the injury prevalence in shorter-distance runners, but ultramarathoners suffered more foot stress fractures. Younger, inexperienced runners were more likely to suffer injury than older athletes.

“It might be presumed that individuals who are capable of running ultramarathons are healthier and have fewer medical needs than a comparable general population, except perhaps for those issues related to injuries from their exercise,” the authors said. “The present study generally supports this premise. Compared with self-reported data from the general population, the prevalence of virtually all chronic diseases and mental health disorders appeared lower in the ultramarathon runners.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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