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A History of Medical Reports on the Boston Marathon: 112 Years and Still Running


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 2 - p 257-264
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181878067
Clinical Sciences

Introduction/Methods: We performed a systematic search for medical reports on the Boston Marathon, run annually since April 19, 1897 and studied medically since 1899.

Results: We identified 66 articles: 25 were related to cardiology; 10, exercise physiology; 8, metabolism; 5, neurology; 4, gastroenterology; 3, hematology; 3, several disciplines; and 8, nephrology, orthopedics, and general topics. The predominance of cardiology articles reflects concerns about the cardiac risks of exercise present in the early 20th century and persistent to this day. The authors and contributors included luminaries from the medical and exercise community including Drs. Paul Dudley White, Samuel Levine, Kenneth Cooper, Paul Zoll, Ellsworth Buskirk, and David Costill. The articles identified or confirmed many of the presently accepted principles of marathon medicine.

Conclusions: Medical studies on the Boston Marathon not only provide lessons applicable to managing modern athletes but also demonstrate the interests and concerns of researchers who have used the event to study the physiology of prolonged exercise for more than a century.

Henry Low Heart Center, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT

Address for correspondence: Paul D. Thompson, M.D., Division of Cardiology, Hartford Hospital, 80 Seymour St, Hartford, CT 06102; E-mail:

Submitted for publication April 2008.

Accepted for publication July 2008.

©2009The American College of Sports Medicine