OBJECTIVES: To identify risk factors for injuries and other health problems occurring during or immediately after participation in a marathon. METHODS: A prospective cohort study was undertaken of participants in the 1993 Auckland Citibank marathon. Demographic data, information on running experience, training and injuries, and information on other lifestyle factors were obtained from participants before the race using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Information on injuries and other health problems sustained during or immediately after the marathon were obtained by a self administered questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were undertaken to identify significant risk factors for health problems. RESULTS: This study, one of only a few controlled epidemiological studies that have been undertaken of running injuries, has identified a number of risk factors for injuries and other health problems sustained in a marathon. Men were at increased risk of hamstring and calf problems, whereas women were at increased risk of hip problems. Participation in a marathon for the first time, participation in other sports, illness in the two weeks before the marathon, current use of medication, and drinking alcohol once a month or more, were associated with increased self reported risks of problems. While increased training seemed to increase the risk of front thigh and hamstring problems, it may decrease the risk of knee problems. There are significant but complex relations between age and risk of injury or health problem. CONCLUSIONS: This study has identified certain high risk subjects and risk factors for injuries and other health problems sustained in a marathon. In particular, subjects who have recently been unwell or are taking medication should weigh up carefully the pros and cons of participating.
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