Just How Many Heart Attack Deaths Occur Marathons?

Co-owner, Metro Run & Walk, Certified Pedorthist, and Runner Walker

Co-owner, Metro Run & Walk, Certified Pedorthist, and Runner

My daughter was running the Pittsburgh marathon this past weekend.  While searching for her times, this article came up in my results:

Runner, 23, dies of cardiac arrest during Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Just before heading to the starting line for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday morning, Kyle Chase Johnson toasted his roommate, Alex Calder, with a glass of raw eggs.

“I woke up with him this morning at 6, and he was doing the ‘Rocky’ thing,” said Calder, Johnson’s former classmate and teammate from the North Allegheny High School football team. “He drank the whole glass of eggs, but he said it was a lot more difficult than he’d thought it was.”

“Breakfast of champions,” Kyle wrote in a tweet at 6:31 a.m., with a picture of the glass of globby yolks and the hashtag “#13.1” — the length of the half marathon.

Slightly more than a mile from the finish line and the Downtown apartment where he had planned to host friends and family for a post-race party, Johnson, 23, an employee of Deloitte & Touche and graduate of Penn State University, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest, authorities said. He was later declared dead in UPMC Mercy.  Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/3966945-74/pittsburgh-arrest-cardiac#ixzz2SWWawnIv \

How incredibly sad that someone so young and in apparent good health would die of a heart attack while running.  My heart goes out to his family and friends who were there waiting for him.  Waiting for that pancake breakfast he planned to fix and enjoy with them after the race.

Mark was running the Arkansas marathon two years ago and a finished collapsed right in front of him.  Mark and another runner performed CPR and got him stabile until the paramedics could takeover.  Our good friend Joe did the “Escape from Alcatraz” this year in San Francisco and someone had a heart attack during the swim portion of that race.  In the San Francisco marathon this year, a 30 year old woman collapsed from a heart attack.

Just seems like a lot of heart attacks, so having an inquiring mind, I started to wonder…

Just how many heart attack deaths occur during marathons in a year?

To answer that, I turned to my trusted research partner –  Google.  Here is what I found:

“While the number of runners who die in marathons is very small, there have been a number of deaths at races over the last year, including at the Dallas White Rock Marathon, Country Music Marathon, Baltimore Marathon, Manitoba Marathon and the Rock N Roll San Jose Half-marathon all in 2009. In 2009, nearly 468,000 full-marathon finishes were recorded in just the United States alone according to research done by marathonguide.com. The number is substantially larger when adding half-marathon finishes. For comparison, the established rate of sudden death is 0.8 deaths per 100,000 with marathons and the rate is 1.5 per 100,000 finishes in triathlons, according to analysis of more than 2,800 USA Triathlon events by Kevin Harris, M.D., of the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and colleagues.”  Excerpt from:   running-advice.com bloggers  Coach Joe English with frequent contributions by Coach Dean Hebert  http://running-advice.com/blog/?tag=marathon-runner-deaths.

Marathons Won’t Give You a Heart Attack:

Marathon running is generally safe for your heart, but be cautious if you have an underlying condition.  Just one out of every 184,000 runners succumbs to cardiac arrest after a marathon.

The finding offers a comforting counterpoint to the media frenzy that often follows when someone drops to the ground with cardiac arrest during a marathon. In the majority of cases, the new study found, athletes had a preexisting heart condition that would’ve likely become a problem even if victims had never signed up for a long-distance event. Excerpt from Discovery News “Marathons Won’t Give You a Heart Attack” Feb 11, 2013 03:00 AM ET  http://news.discovery.com/adventure/marathon-running-heart-011112.htm

 Heart Attacks Uncommon During Marathons

A study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine covered 10 years or running and almost 11 million runners, and found that only 59 people had a cardiac arrest during a race – 51 of them men.  Excerpt from NYTimes.com “Heart Attacks Uncommon During Marathons”  by , January 12, 2012  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/heart-attacks-uncommon-during-marathons/

 New England Journal of Medicine, Cardiac Arrest during Long-Distance Running Races

Jonathan H. Kim, M.D., Rajeev Malhotra, M.D., George Chiampas, D.O., Pierre d’Hemecourt, M.D., Chris Troyanos, A.T.C., John Cianca, M.D., Rex N. Smith, M.D., Thomas J. Wang, M.D., William O. Roberts, M.D., Paul D. Thompson, M.D., and Aaron L. Baggish, M.D. for the Race Associated Cardiac Arrest Event Registry (RACER) Study Group

N Engl J Med 2012; 366:130-140January 12, 2012, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1106468

Results:  Of 10.9 million runners, 59 (mean [±SD] age, 42±13 years; 51 men) had cardiac arrest (incidence rate, 0.54 per 100,000 participants; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.41 to 0.70). Cardiovascular disease accounted for the majority of cardiac arrests. The incidence rate was significantly higher during marathons (1.01 per 100,000; 95% CI, 0.72 to 1.38) than during half-marathons (0.27; 95% CI, 0.17 to 0.43) and among men (0.90 per 100,000; 95% CI, 0.67 to 1.18) than among women (0.16; 95% CI, 0.07 to 0.31). Male marathon runners, the highest-risk group, had an increased incidence of cardiac arrest during the latter half of the study decade (2000–2004, 0.71 per 100,000 [95% CI, 0.31 to 1.40]; 2005–2010, 2.03 per 100,000 [95% CI, 1.33 to 2.98]; P=0.01). Of the 59 cases of cardiac arrest, 42 (71%) were fatal (incidence, 0.39 per 100,000; 95% CI, 0.28 to 0.52). Among the 31 cases with complete clinical data, initiation of bystander-administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and an underlying diagnosis other than hypertrophic cardiomyopathy were the strongest predictors of survival.

Conclusions:  Marathons and half-marathons are associated with a low overall risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death. Cardiac arrest, most commonly attributable to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or atherosclerotic coronary disease, occurs primarily among male marathon participants; the incidence rate in this group increased during the past decade.

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One Response to Just How Many Heart Attack Deaths Occur Marathons?

  1. PB says:

    Just ran a marathon yesterday. During the race I saw three people collapse (I don’t know if they died or out). All three were young (appeared to be under 30), healthy looking males

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