The rationale for pre-race aspirin to protect susceptible runners from sudden cardiac death during marathons: Deconstructing the Pheidippides conundrum


Objectives: While endurance exercise such as training for marathons is cardioprotective, cardiac arrests and sudden death occur in previously healthy runners during races predominantly in middle-aged males due to atherosclerotic heart disease. Recent evidence related to this problem is reviewed herein including epidemiologic studies and findings related to acute cardiac risk in asymptomatic middle-aged male runners during races. Method: Literature review related to the above. Findings: The risks of cardiac arrest and sudden death were 1 in 57,002 and 1 in 171,005 respectively in runners with a mean age of 49.7 years among 1,710,052 participants in marathons in the United States since 1980. Atherosclerotic heart disease was the cause of death in over 90% of cases in two retrospective studies and a greater than two-fold increase in cardiac arrests was observed in middle-aged men in the latter half of a 10-year prospective registry beginning in the year 2000. Asymptomatic middle-aged male runners showed elevated biomarkers of inflammation such as interleukin-6, C-reactive protein together with procoagulant effects including in vivo platelet activation, indicating susceptibility to atherothrombosis. Conclusions: Antithrombotic prophylaxis is evidence-based by validated clinical paradigms to prevent cardiac arrest and sudden death in susceptibile marathon runners at high risk for atherothrombosis during races.

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Siegel, A. (2013) The rationale for pre-race aspirin to protect susceptible runners from sudden cardiac death during marathons: Deconstructing the Pheidippides conundrum. World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases, 3, 17-20. doi: 10.4236/wjcd.2013.35A003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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