Running a marathon can cause shin splints and aching joints, but just living near a marathon route could pose a health hazard for elderly people, a new study suggests.
A study led by Anupam Jena, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, sought to examine the effects of marathons, parades and protest marches on local residents.
Her team discovered that delays in care because of road closures may explain the higher mortality rate among patients who were admitted to the hospital on the same day that a major marathon was held in the area. Ambulance travel time in marathon-affected areas was 4.4 minutes longer on average, or about 32% longer. Perhaps because of the longer response time, patients hospitalized on marathon days were more likely to die within a month of being admitted than patients brought to the hospital on other days.
About 28.2% of elderly adults who suffered serious cardiac issues on marathon days died within 30 days, compared with 24.9% who experienced the same health issue on a day without a marathon.
For the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers examined 11 years of ambulance and patient data from hospitals closest to the 11 largest U.S. marathons. Researchers compared data from patients admitted on race days of patients admitted to the same hospital with the same health issues five weeks before and after a marathon.
"Rates of acute myocardial infarction with concurrent cardiac arrest were twice as high among (Medicare) beneficiaries hospitalized on marathon dates as among similar beneficiaries hospitalized on nonmarathon dates, a finding that is consistent with delayed care," the study said.