Aim There are limited data on the negative effects of exercise in athletes with acute infective illness. The aim of this study was to determine whether a recently diagnosed prerace acute illness in runners affects the ability to finish a race.
Methods Runners were prospectively evaluated in the 3 days before the race for acute infective illness and then received participation advice using clinical criteria based on systemic or localised symptoms/signs. We compared the did-not-start and the did-not-finish frequencies of ill runners (Ill=172: localised=58.7%; systemic=41.3%) with that of a control group of runners (Con=53 734).
Results Runners with a systemic illness were 10.4% more likely not to start compared with controls (29.6% vs 19.2%) (p=0.0073). The risk difference of not starting the race in runners who were advised not to run the race compared with controls was 37.3% (56.5% vs 19.2%, p<0.0001). Compared with controls, runners with illness had a significantly (p<0.05) greater risk (any illness (5.2% vs 1.6%), systemic illness (8.0% vs 1.6%), illness <24 hours before the race (11.1% vs 1.6%)) and relative risk (prevalence risk ratio) (any illness=3.4, systemic illness=4.9, systemic illness <24 hours before the race=7.0) of not finishing the race.
Conclusions Runners with prerace acute systemic illness, and particularly those diagnosed <24 hours before race day, are less likely to finish the race, indicating a reduction in race performance.
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Contributors LG: study planning, data collection, data interpretation, manuscript drafting and editing.
MS: responsible for the overall content as guarantor, study concept, study planning, data collection, data interpretation, manuscript (first draft), manuscript editing, facilitating funding.
WD: study planning, data collection, data interpretation, manuscript editing.
SS: study planning, data analysis including statistical analysis, data interpretation, manuscript editing.
EJ: study planning, data analysis including statistical analysis, data interpretation, manuscript editing.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Obtained.
Ethics approval Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Cape Town prior to starting the study (REC: 441/2012). The Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health Science at the University of Pretoria (433/2015) also approved the study.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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