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Medical encounters, cardiac arrests and deaths during a 109 km community-based mass-participation cycling event: a 3-year study in 102 251 race starters—SAFER IX


Background There are few data on medical encounters, including deaths during mass-participation cycling events.

Objective To determine the incidence and nature of medical encounters during a community-based mass-participation cycling event.

Design Cross-sectional study across three annual events.

Setting 2012–2014 Cape Town Cycle Tour (109 km), South Africa.

Participants 102 251 race starters (male=80 354, female=21 897).

Methods Medical encounters (moderate, serious life-threatening, sudden cardiac arrest/death), using the 2019 international consensus definitions, were recorded on race day for 3 years as incidence rates (IR per 1000 starters; 95% CI). Overall illness-related (by organ system) or injury-related (by anatomical region) encounters, and severity were recorded.

Results We recorded 539 medical encounters (IR 5.3; 4.8 to 5.7). The IR was 3.2 for injuries (2.9 to 3.6), 2.1 for illnesses (1.0 to 2.4) and 0.5 for serious life-threatening medical encounters (0.4 to 0.7). In the 3-year study, we encountered three cardiac arrests and one death (2.9 and 1.0 per 100 000 starters, respectively). Injury IRs included upper limb (1.9; 1.6 to 2.1), lower limb (1.0; 0.8 to 1.0) and head/neck (0.8; 0.6 to 1.0). Illness IRs included fluid/electrolyte abnormalities (0.6; 0.5 to 0.8) and the cardiovascular system (0.5; 0.4 to 0.6).

Conclusion In a 109 km community-based mass-participation cycling event, medical encounters (moderate to severe) occurred in about 1 in 200 cyclists. Injury-related (1/300 cyclists) encounters were higher than illness-related medical encounters (1 in about 500). Serious life-threatening medical encounters occurred in 1/2000 cyclists. These data allow race organisers to anticipate the medical services required and the approximate extent of demand.

  • cycling
  • endurance sports
  • recreational
  • medical encounters
  • deaths
  • sudden cardiac death
  • epidemiology
  • safer study

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