Running Events

Emergency Planning Can Reduce Risk of Death from Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Marathons

17 Oct, 2012

Deaths from sudden cardiac arrest can be reduced by proper training of race medical staff and provisions for adequate equipment, according to research published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. This study, in the October edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, shows that early use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can dramatically improve survival following sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

The authors distributed a survey requesting the number of sudden cardiac arrest incidents, treatment, and outcome to all U.S. marathon medical directors. Eighty-eight of the surveyed medial directors responded, indicating that most sudden cardiac arrest events occur near the end of the race, and resuscitation is most successful when there are early responders and an AED is used. In addition, the majority of SCA occurred in men during the fifth decade of life.

“Emergency planning with availability of AEDs throughout the race course is recommended, and if resources are limited, focus should be placed in the last four miles of the race, where the majority of sudden cardiac arrests occur. It is also important for all runners to establish a relationship with a primary care or sports medicine physician, prior to marathon participation.” said the primary investigator, David Webner, M.D., of the Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Though the risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest during a marathon is very low – about one in 57,000 – this survey gives further insight into the importance of medical staff during a race and the crucial role of response time and AED use in treatment of sudden cardiac arrest victims during marathons.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 44, No. 10, pp: 1843-1845) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 133. Visit ACSM online at

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.



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