New study looks at the risk of fatalities during mountain races

Rick Pearson
·1-min read

Mountain races such as the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Skyrunning series are becoming ever more popular, with runners from around the world looking to test themselves on challenging, technical terrain.

These spectacular races, however, come with an inherent danger. A new study looked into the causes of fatalities during mountain races in Western Europe from 2008 to 2019.

The researchers found 51 fatal events during that 12-year period, involving 45 men (88 per cent) and six women (12 per cent). Most of these incidents occurred during races (69 per cent), with the rest occurring during training (25 per cent) and after races (six per cent).

The most common causes of death were cardiac arrest (43 per cent), falls (32 per cent) and hypothermia (four per cent). Perhaps surprisingly, the study suggests mountain runners are more likely to die from being struck by lightning (four per cent) than by animal attack (two per cent).

The researchers concluded: ‘Understanding all of the causes of fatal events is necessary to institute preventative efforts and to organise rescues. Preventative efforts should be implemented by race organisers and by athletes themselves, and rescue teams can be trained and equipped to address all of these possible events. The relatively high percentage of sudden cardiac deaths stresses the need for preparticipation cardiovascular screenings.’

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