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Medical encounters at community-based physical activity events (parkrun) in the UK
  1. Charles R Pedlar1,2,
  2. Kyriaki Myrissa1,
  3. Megan Barry1,
  4. Iman G Khwaja1,
  5. Andrew J Simpkin3,
  6. John Newell3,
  7. Carl Scarrott3,
  8. Greg P Whyte4,
  9. Courtney Kipps2,
  10. Aaron L Baggish5,6
  1. 1 Faculty of Sport and Applied Performance Science, St Mary's University Twickenham, Twickenham, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3 School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics, NUI Galway, Galway, Ireland
  4. 4 Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
  5. 5 Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6 Cardiovascular Performance Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Charles R Pedlar, Faculty of Sport, Allied Health and Performance Science, St Mary's University Twickenham, Twickenham, UK; pedlarc{at}


Objective To determine the incidence, clinical correlates and exposure risk of medical encounters during community-based physical activity events in the UK.

Methods An analysis of medical data from weekly, community-based physical activity events (parkrun) at 702 UK locations over a 6-year period (29 476 294 participations between 2014 and 2019) was conducted in order to define the incidence and clinical correlates of serious life-threatening, non-life-threatening and fatal medical encounters.

Results 84 serious life-threatening encounters (overall incidence rate=0.26/100 000 participations) occurred including 18 fatalities (0.056/100 000 participations). Statistical modelling revealed that the probabilities of serious life-threatening encounters were exceptionally low, however, male sex, increasing age, slower personal best parkrun time and less prior running engagement/experience (average number of runs per year and number of years as a parkrun participant) were associated with increased probability of serious life-threatening encounters. These were largely accounted for by cardiac arrest (48/84, 57%) and acute coronary syndromes (20/84, 24%). Non-life-threatening medical encounters were mainly attributed to tripping or falling, with a reported incidence of 39.2/100 000 participations.

Conclusions Serious life-threatening and fatal medical encounters associated with parkrun participation are extremely rare. In the context of a global public health crisis due to inactivity, this finding underscores the safety and corollary public health value of community running/walking events as a strategy to promote physical activity.

  • exercise
  • public health
  • death
  • running
  • cardiology

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Following publication, data analysed in the present study will be made available to other research groups subject to approval of a proposal and a signed data access agreement.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Following publication, data analysed in the present study will be made available to other research groups subject to approval of a proposal and a signed data access agreement.

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  • Twitter @pedlarcr, @DrMyrissa

  • Contributors CP, AB, CK and GPW conceptualised the research study aims and methodology; CP, KM, IK, MB, CK and AB curated, reviewed and categorised all data provided by parkrun; JN, CS and AS conducted the formal statistical analysis; CP, AB, JN and CS wrote the manuscript; All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding A grant was awarded by parkrun (UK-based charity number 1175062) to support effort of the lead author and two research assistants. However, the study design, analyses and conclusions presented in this manuscript were conducted independently of the parkrun organisation.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

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

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