A change of heart

There is good news and bad news to report about marathon runners and their hearts.

Previous research had shown cardiac irregularities in some nonelite runners after a race. A new study, presented recently at the International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego, appears to be the first to use cardiac magnetic resonance imaging after a marathon to test for heart injury. CMRI allows physicians to assess cardiac function and health.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba in Canada studied 14 casual runners who ran in the 2008 Manitoba Marathon. They were tested before the race for cardiac biomarkers that revealed the health of their hearts. After the race, they were given additional blood tests, plus echocardiograms and CMRIs.

The bad news: Results of the echocardiograms and CMRIs immediately after the race showed abnormalities on both sides of the heart. Also, the pumping capabilities of the right ventricle went from 64% to 43%. The good news: Even though cardiac biomarkers were irregular after the marathon, researchers concluded that there was no sign of permanent injury to the muscle.


Plans are in the works by the researchers to conduct further studies to see if these abnormalities cause any permanent damage in people who run more than one marathon a year.