Study Shows AEDs and Early Responders Key to Survival of SCA-Stricken Marathon Runners

Early use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can dramatically improve survival of marathon runners who suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), shows a study published in the October edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (Vol. 44, No. 10, pages 1843-1845).

Eighty-eight U.S. medical race directors who participated in the survey responded about the number of sudden cardiac arrest incidents, treatments and outcomes. Results indicated that SCA events typically occur toward the end of the race and that the use of AEDs and the availability of early responders drastically improve survival rates.  Race directors also noted that the majority of SCA events occurred in men in their fifties.

“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,” said David Webner, physician and the study’s primary researcher, in an ASCM press release. “It is also important for all runners to establish a relationship with a primary care or sports medicine physician prior to marathon participation.”

Marathon running is gaining in popularity. In the U.S. alone an estimated 518,000 runners completed marathons in 2011, according to Running USA, an industry-supported research group based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

While the odds of experiencing  SCA during a marathon is only about one in 57,000 –proper training of race medical staff and provisions for adequate equipment, such as AEDs, is of critical importance when SCA makes not just finishing, but surviving the race the challenge.