Black Health

Dark Side of Marathons


While you prepare to shine in a marathon race, be aware that you might face an unseen injury.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases indicates that running marathon can cause some kidney injury, but that does not imply you should not participate in long-distance races.

“The short-term sudden kidney injury is highly pronounced. But because these participants are healthy, they’re recovering very well,” says Dr. Chirag Parikh, a medicine professor at Yale University and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who also authored the study.

Dr. Chirag and his colleagues searched for signs of the acute kidney injury by examining kidney cells, proteins in urine and serum creatinine levels— from 22 athletes who ran the 2015 Hartford Marathon. The scholars took measurements the day before the run, immediately after the race and one day later.

Immediately after the race, 82 percent of the athletes showed the acute kidney injuries, but it began fading a day later.

“Kidney damage is much common in this population,” stated Dr. John Kellum, the director at the Center for Critical Care Nephrology at UPMC in Pittsburgh, though he was not involved in the research. “We knew and suspected some level of kidney dysfunction in athletes undertaking marathons and long runs.”

Dr. John said experts had the notion that muscle breakdown from highly strenuous exercise causes the acute kidney injury, but results from this research found that it isn’t true. The scholars theorized that physical stress is the one which causes the injury. A combination of, an increase in dehydration, core temperature, and decreased flow of blood to the kidneys probably contributed to the short-term injuries.

Although acute kidney injury seems to be unavoidable in marathon running, Dr. Chirag says runners can prevent more severe scenarios by staying hydrated properly and avoiding common painkillers called Non-Aspirin Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) as they can have a toxic impact on the kidneys.

“If someone isn’t well hydrated, he can end up experiencing more serious acute kidney injury,” he added. “It’s unlikely that it can prevent the injury since it happens because of physical stress. The chances are it can only assist to alleviate response.”

The majority are unaware they’ve acute kidney injury as they do not experience noticeable signs and symptoms.

Dr. Chirag says the runners do not appear to experience long-term kidney infections. Study subjects had been running for at minimum a decade and ran several marathons annually, yet the study could not detect long-term harm.

“We don’t know if there’s small kidney damage that’s not picked up,” said Dr. Chirag. “We do not know if they’ll have problems in 20 years to come.”

He finalizes by not advising people to stop running.

“I do not want runners to get alarmed,” Dr. Chirag went on. “It’s kind of this unknown territory. ‘What’s the right amount of running?’”

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