I recently became aware of marathon runners who have suddenly died. Recently, a 42-year-old man died in London, England during a marathon, and two men, aged, 31 and 35, died in North Carolina while completing a half-marathon. Why did the incidence of healthy people dying in marathons take a steep incline in the recent years? Suggested theory: there are just more people running marathons compared to the past years.
Scientifically, what’s the cause of their death? Are they exercising extensively? Are they unhealthy? Does weather and nutrition level play a fact? No. Most of these cases are actually due to a phenomenon called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and sudden exertion.
According to the Merck Manuals, most cases of HCM are inherited. At least 50 different mutations are inherited in an autosomally dominant pattern and spontaneous mutations are common. Symptoms normally appear between ages 20 and 40. Syncope can correlate greatly with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.
HCM is so common that 1 in 500 people are affected. So, that means it affects one senior in all high schools every year. That’s kind of scary when you think about it. Hence, that is why most schools have physical exams before a student participates in any sports activities. They are re-evaluated every 2 years, and every 4 years for college students. Students with family history or onset of symptoms have further tests done, such as, ECG and echocardiography. If HCM and other cardiac conditions are diagnosed, they normally prevent the student from participating in any sporting events.
While these preventative measures are in place for school-aged and college population, there are hardly any measures for individuals who run marathons and half-marathons. What’s the best measure to prevent these individuals from collapsing and falling dead?