Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rodger McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel and interim president.
During a recent marathon, a friend stopped briefly to pose for a photo with family and friends. But when he did, he felt faint and nearly passed out. He went on to finish the race and reports no further problems. Is this something he needs to explore further with his doctor?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Feeling lightheaded after stopping vigorous exercise such as running is not uncommon. Suddenly coming to a halt can cause a sharp drop in blood pressure that can lead to fainting. While alarming, the experience does not usually merit follow-up care.
When you run, your blood vessels dilate, muscles in your legs contract and your heart rate increases. In addition to the obvious work of providing movement, the muscle contractions in your legs also help push blood back to your heart.
When you stop suddenly, even briefly, that cycle is disrupted. Gravity kicks in, and blood pools in the legs. The result is often light-headedness, dizziness and even collapse.
To minimize the risk of this, don’t stop abruptly during an intense workout. Especially in a race environment where runners tend to move faster than a training run, continue walking to cool down once you cross the finish line. This transition allows your body to adjust slowly. In the event you feel on the verge of collapse, lie down, elevate your feet, and sip fluids if they are available.
Although this phenomenon is not the only reason endurance athletes collapse after intense activity, a 2011 review study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found it is the most common.
If your friend’s experience is isolated, it’s unlikely he needs to see his physician. Should he desire a midrace picture in the future, I’d recommend smiling for the camera – but continuing to run. There will be plenty of time to catch up with loved ones after he’s crossed the finish line.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!