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Study of Injury and Illness Rates in Multiday Ultramarathon Runners


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 12 - p 2314–2320
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318221bfe3

Purpose This study aimed to describe injury and illness rates in runners competing in 7-d, 250-km off-road ultramarathon events.

Methods Three hundred ninety-six runners competing in the RacingThePlanet© 4 Desert Series ultramarathon races from 2005 to 2006 were prospectively followed. Descriptive analyses were used to evaluate overall injury/illness rates, types of injuries/illnesses, and diagnoses for all medical encounters. Multivariate linear regression was used to estimate the risk of number of injuries/illnesses and 95% confidence intervals associated with age, sex, and race completion time.

Results Eight-five percent of runners representing a total of 1173 medical encounters required medical care. The overall injury/illness rates were 3.86 per runner and 65 per 1000-h run. Almost 95% were minor in nature, owing to skin-related disorders (74.3%), musculoskeletal injuries (18.2%), and medical illnesses (7.5%). Medical illnesses were more likely on the first day of the race, whereas musculoskeletal and skin injuries were more likely on day 3 or 4. A 10-yr increase in age was associated with 0.5 fewer injuries/illnesses, and females had 0.16 more medical illnesses compared with males.

Conclusions Despite the extreme nature and harsh environments of multiday ultramarathon races, the majority of injuries or illnesses are minor in nature. Future studies are needed to evaluate additional factors contributing to injuries.

1Department of Rehabilitation, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; 2Seattle Children’s Sports Medicine, Seattle, WA; 3Seattle University, Seattle, WA; 4USA Swimming, Colorado Springs, CO; 5Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of California Davis Sports Medicine, Sacramento, CA; 6Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; and 7Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Address for correspondence: Brian J. Krabak, M.D., M.B.A., 4245 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105; E-mail:

Submitted for publication January 2011.

Accepted for publication April 2011.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine