Comrades: Great medical support

2008-06-10 00:00

Medical personnel will monitor runners closely in this year's Comrades Marathon.

“A new addition to the medical package that is traditionally offered to Comrades runners is the deployment of additional medical marshals on this year's 87 km route, whose role it is to identify and respond to potential medical emergencies,” Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairman Dave Dixon told The Witness.

Dixon was responding to concerns expressed in a Weekend Witness report that runners could be disqualified if they assisted or were assisted by a fellow runner during the race or across the finish line.

“Race referees will be visible throughout the 87 km and they will immediately communicate with the medical teams should a runner be in difficulty. It is important for runners to comply at all times with the requests made by race officials and we trust that common sense will prevail,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the most comprehensive medical support team in the history of the race will be on hand to assist the 11 000-plus runners along the route and at the finish line.

“A new medical protocol is in place to comply with the rules of the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) but at the same time the CMA has ensured that a happy medium has been struck in order to preserve the ethos and camaraderie of this unique event,” said Dixon.

Another new addition to the medical package is an emergency resuscitation unit at the finish line.

The army on call to assist runners in this year’s up-run, from the Durban City Hall to The Oval in Pietermaritzburg’s Alexandra Park, runs the full gamut of medical personnel backed up by the necessary air, land and equipment support.

With respect to the medical, emergency and physiotherapy services available, these include 16 Netcare 911 ambulances equipped with satellite tracking; six Netcare 911 rapid response vehicles with advanced life support paramedics; four Netcare 911 motorbikes with paramedics; one dedicated helicopter; one standby helicopter; eight medical first-aid stations en route staffed by professional nurses and paramedical staff.

These stations incorporate diabetic facilities where blood sugar levels can be tested.

Further support will be provided via eight physio stations en route, staffed by qualified physios and third-year physio students; a medical tent at the finish staffed by 40 doctors and 20 nurses, including a two-bed fully equipped ICU-type resuscitation unit; an emergency resuscitation unit at the finish line, a St John’s Ambulance tent at the finish to attend to minor discomforts and provide rub downs, strapping and massages, a physio tent at the finish and a public first-aid tent.

“Sunday’s Comrades promises to be one of the most memorable yet,” Dixon said.

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