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The quest to reduce the risk of adverse medical events in exercising individuals: introducing the SAFER (Strategies to reduce Adverse medical events For the ExerciseR) studies
  1. Martin Schwellnus1,2,
  2. Wayne Derman1,2
  1. 1Clinical Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Group, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Martin Schwellnus, UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 3rd Floor, Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Boundary Road, Newlands, Cape Town 7700, South Africa; mschwell{at}

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Regular participation in physical activity is well established as an important component of a comprehensive lifestyle intervention programme for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of chronic non-communicable disease.1–3 Recreational distance running, as one form of regular physical activity, is popular globally. Data published in the 2013 Running USA Annual report indicates that there are over 50 million runners in the USA, of which >29 million run for more than 50 days/annum, and >9 million runners run for more than 110 days/annum (2013 Running USA Annual report: Furthermore, almost 75% of male and female runners indicated that the main motivation to continue to run is to stay healthy. The half marathon race is the most popular event and participation in this race has also experienced the greatest growth between 2000 and 2012. Apart from the general increase in the number of runners, there is also a concomitant increase in participation in mass community-based distance running events globally. In 2012 there were more than 30 half-marathon races and more than 10 marathon races that attracted >20 000 runners (2013 Running USA Annual report:

However, it is also well documented that vigorous (high intensity) physical activity, such as distance running, is associated with medical complications that can affect a variety of organ systems.4 Of particular interest is the fact that vigorous exercise may act as a trigger for cardiac arrest and sudden death as a result …

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  • Contributors MS was involved in writing the first draft of the manuscript and editing it. He is the guarantor. WD was involved in manuscript editing.

  • Funding Clinical Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Fund (partial funding), IOC Research Center (Cape Town) (partial funding).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.