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Medicina dello Sport 2010 September;63(3):391-408


language: English, Italian

Biomedical aspects of 51 consecutive marathons

Ganzit G. P., Verzini F., Hajdarevic A., Riganti A.

1 Institute of Sports Medicine – FMSI, Turin, Italy 2 LAMAT Laboratory, Turin, Italy


Aim. Changes in biochemical parameters in a master athlete running 51 consecutive marathons were analyzed to determine biological adaption to endurance performance.
Methods. Every four days throughout the marathon series, the subject’s body weight and composition were measured, urine samples were collected, and capillary blood samples were drawn to determine changes in non-esterified fat acid (NEFA), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT ), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), plasma electrolytes, creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), testosterone, cortisol, fibrinogen, C-reactive protein (CRP), and oxidative stress indices. The heart rate and energy expenditure were also monitored. Magnetic resonance (MR) scans of the knees were obtained before and after completion of the marathon series.
Results. Fatty mass was noted to decrease significantly over the course of the marathon series; the mean heart rate decreased significantly during the last period (129 bpm to 125 bpm) as did red blood cell count and hemoglobin concentration (12.8 g% vs. the initial value of 13.7 g%). Cortisol decreased while testosterone increased significantly (3.8 to 5 ng/mL) during the last two weeks. Total peroxides increased after the first three marathons and then later decreased (392 to 189 µmol/L). Fibrinogen, CRP, CK, LDK and urinanalysis were unchanged. No osteochondral injuries of the knees were detected on the final MR scans.
Conclusion. Analysis of the biochemical data indicate that an elevated volume of aerobic work can be successfully carried out without causing muscle or joint damage, metabolic derangement or renal dysfunction. Also in well-trained athletes, prolonged endurance performance can induce specific adaptations that facilitate completion of the race, the psychological limit to which is the monotony and duration of performance.

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