Ultramarathon A Unique Challenge in Sports Medicine

Original presentation in Romanian

Dr. Beatrice Constandache, a specialist in sports medicine and a member of the IAU Medical Committee, presented at the National Sports Medicine Conference in Bucharest on June 13, 2024. She highlighted the growing prominence of ultramarathons, defined as any distance greater than a marathon (>42.19km), and their impact on sports medicine.

Full presentation is provided above (full presentation in Romanian).

Ultramarathons, with a median age of 40, have seen a significant increase in participation in Europe, with over 300 races annually. The IAU officially recognizes various ultramarathon events, including 24-hour races, 50km, 100km road races, and trail races. Additionally, transcontinental races such as the Trans Europe Foot Race and the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series have gained popularity.

The origins of ultrarunning can be traced back over the past 200 years, evolving from long-distance walking to running. Notable figures such as Edward Payson Weston and John Foden have contributed to the development and popularization of ultrarunning.

Dr. Constandache emphasized the need for specific training and preparation for ultramarathons to mitigate the risk of injuries and health complications. She discussed the physiological and medical implications of ultramarathon running, including musculoskeletal injuries, renal function, cardiac function, and energy requirements.

A comprehensive study “The State of Ultrarunning 2020” conducted in collaboration with the IAU revealed significant insights into ultramarathon participation and performance. The study highlighted a substantial increase in annual participation, with a notable rise in female participation. It also indicated a decline in the average running speed over the years.

Moreover, Dr. Constandache addressed the potential long-term health implications associated with ultramarathon running, emphasizing the need for medical monitoring, early detection of pathologies, and preventive measures to safeguard the health of ultrarunners.

The presentation also discussed the challenges and legal aspects of organizing ultramarathon events, emphasizing the importance of medical support and safety regulations. Dr. Constandache stressed the significance of medical assessment, personalized training, and post-race recovery to ensure the longevity of ultrarunners' careers.

In conclusion, Dr. Constandache's presentation shed light on the evolving landscape of ultramarathons and the growing role of sports medicine in supporting and safeguarding the health and well-being of ultrarunners.

The IAU Medical Committee members: Nadeem Khan, Matthias Reick and Beatrice Constandache will be speaking at the upcoming conference "Understanding the Role of Medicines in Sports - Innovative Techniques" in Münster on April 5, 2025, promises to further explore these critical aspects of sports medicine. Teh conference is organised by Dr. Beatrice Constandache. 

Jacek Bedkowski

IAU Director of Communication

Ultramarathon A Unique Challenge in Sports Medicine

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