At last month’s annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association, investigators from the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, reported on a small study of runners who participated in the 2008 Detroit Marathon.
The abstract for their presentation was published in the Abstract Book for the meeting and their findings are also summarized in this article from ScienceNews online.
There has long been the concern that there is acute (and possible long-lasting) heart damage in amateur runners who participate in marathon events. The study participants underwent blood tests, a cardiac MRI scan, and 24-hour Holter monitoring (tape recording of the ECG) 4 weeks before and then immediately after the marathon. The authors reported that, although there is release of a small amount cardiac enzymes into the bloodstream (indicating potential heart stress) during and immediately after a marathon, there is no evidence of damage per se to the heart. They also confirm the findings of many previous investigators that there is mild to moderate enlargement of the right atrium and right ventricle when they are measured immediately after the marathon. These changes are thought to resolve within 3 to 6 months after the event.
The detailed findings from this study probably won’t appear in medical journal for a year or more, but long-distance runners should take some comfort from this report.