Typically, less than half of runners who have been recently
diagnosed with acute systemic infections, such as respiratory
infections or gastritis, follow their doctors’ advice not to run in
a race, the study team writes in British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“We previously showed that about 10 percent of runners have symptoms
of acute illness in the few days before a race,” study coauthor Dr.
Martin Schwellnus said by email.
“Acute illness can affect a number of physiological systems during
exercise, and more importantly, can result in medical complications
during exercise,” said Schwellnus, who directs the Sport, Exercise
Medicine and Lifestyle Institute of the University of Pretoria in
Schwellnus and his colleagues decided to study runners who reported
pre-race illness to determine the effects of various symptoms on
They evaluated runners who thought they might be sick in the three
days before the 2013 and 2014 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathons in
Cape Town. Of the more than 53,000 runners who participated in the
two events, about 240 asked for the evaluations.
The evaluations included taking medical histories and referring
runners to medical doctors if they reported symptoms such as fever,
muscle and body aches, fatigue, coughs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
sore throat, shortness of breath or chest pain.
A total of 172 runners reported signs and symptoms of acute
infective illness with 101 of the runners having localized symptoms
such as a runny nose or sinus pain, and 71 runners having symptoms
of respiratory tract or other systemic infections. About 140 of the
runners were given advice on how to handle their illnesses and
doctors advised 23 acutely ill runners not to start the race.
The study team found that runners with a systemic illness who
started the race despite being told they shouldn’t run had an 8
percent chance of not finishing the race, compared with less than 2
percent among healthy runners.
[to top of second column]
About 11 percent of runners who were diagnosed with acute illness
during the 24 hours just before the race did not finish.
Runners with systemic symptoms such as fever, generalized muscle
pain and joint pain, chest pain, elevated resting heart rate,
dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea should not run, said
“Runners with no systemic symptoms and only ‘localized’ symptoms
such as blocked nose or runny nose can start the race, but be
prepared to stop if their symptoms get worse or they develop new
symptoms,” he said.
Schwellnus noted that it is especially important to stop if runners
feel chest pain, dizziness, excessive shortness of breath, excessive
fatigue or palpitations.
The study team didn’t examine how well the runners performed in the
races, but it’s likely they didn’t do as well as they would if they
“In a previous study in triathletes, we have shown that sick
participants are slower than their predicted finishing times. In
this study we did not have their predicted finishing times to
compare,” Schwellnus said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2qsDoNQ British Journal of Sports Medicine,
online April 12, 2017.
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.