Study finds ultramarathoners healthier, but injury-prone

rob krar in Colorado running the UROC 100K
rob krar in Colorado running the UROC 100K
Canadian Rob Krar in Colorado running the UROC 100K

There has been much debate recently on whether ultramarathon races do more harm than good but a new study may leave the naysayers silent, at least for a little while.

The study observed a group of 1,212 ultrarunners and looked at presence of chronic disease, utilization of healthcare, and risk of injury. Of these athletes, 94.7 per cent had run at least one race in the previous year measuring at least 50K. The study confirms that ultramarathon runners have a lesser chance of suffering from chronic diseases. Only 4.5 per cent of the runners reported having a history of cancer. This compares to 8.2 per cent of the general American population. About 0.7 per cent of the runners suffered from diabetes or coronary artery disease. Unsurprisingly, ultramarathon runners are also less likely to play hookie from work or school, reporting a near-perfect attendance record.

When it comes to injury, we found out that the news is better for older runners. Older ultramarathon racers are more resilient to injuries than the younger ones in the pack.

Unfortunately the news isn’t all good though. These athletes have higher instances of exercise-induced asthma – about 11 per cent and 25 per cent suffer from allergies and hay fever. Of the general population, only eight per cent have this kind of asthma and seven per cent battle through allergies. The study also found that 64.5 per cent had to sit out on training (for an average of 14 days) due to injury. The types of injuries were caused by overuse, with knee injuries being the most common. Younger or newbie runners had a higher chance of getting injured and female runners were found to be more likely to get stress fractures.