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How to stay out of the medical tent: an interview with Boston Marathon Medical Coordinator, Chris Troyanos

June 8, 2015 by Jen Matz (reprinted from WalkJogRun blog archive)

There are two things Chris Troyanos, ATC Medical Coordinator for the Boston Marathon, wants you to do before you line up at the start of any endurance event:

“Do your training and know your family health history.”

Troyanos says these actions could keep you out of the race’s medical tent – and possibly even save your life.

He also says that while running is a very safe sport, his job is to doing everything possible to keep us safer. Even though he’s not a runner himself, Troyanos has treated more than hundreds of thousands of runners in his more than 30 year career as a medical event coordinator.

Race medical teams: minimizing runners’ risk

From treating minor problems, like blisters and cramping, to major health issues, such as hyponatremia and cardiac arrest, Troyanos’s team is ready for anything along a race course. Thanks to cutting edge medical technology and a talented team of trained professionals, medical tents operate like mini hospitals – offering fast, top-notch care to athletes in need.

For instance, if you ended up in a medical tent at the Boston Marathon this year, Troyanos’s team could tell how hydrated you were within a matter of seconds. Abbott, the title sponsor of the World Marathon Majors, makes a handheld blood analyzer called an i-STAT. The i-STAT tells medical personnel how hydrated a runner is within minutes, among other health features. This technology provides the medical team with specific details about the runner, empowering them to administer quality care as soon as possible.

Troyanos says the partnership with Abbott is also important because they’re trying to educate runners about warning signs for health problems so they know when to stop during races. From emailed tips on proper hydration to CPR demonstrations at race expos, they are trying to help runners take control of their health.

Troyanos is meeting with other medical directors from the five marathon majors, and he says they hope to put together endurance medicine best practices to share with smaller races, so that the sport on a whole can become even safer.

The runner’s role:

Still, the responsibility of staying safe and healthy lies with us – the runners. “It’s about being a good consumer,” Troyanos explains. “Do your training. If you haven’t done your training, then maybe you’re not ready for the event.”

Troyanos also cautions to respect the weather. “Heat and humidity are the great equalizers of runners,” he says. Don’t underestimate your risk during shorter distance events. According to Troyanos, marathons and longer races aren’t necessarily the most dangerous distances out there – hot and humid summer 5ks and 10ks can quickly turn into risky events.

Lastly, Troyanos advises to get a full health checkup from your doctor each year, and more often if your doctor recommends it. “This is especially important if you have heart disease in your family,” Troyanos stresses.

And if you don’t feel well during a race, always stop at a medical tent. “There will always be more races,” Troyanos says. “No race is worth your health.”

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