Keeping Pace With Atrial Fibrillation

By Thurston Hatcher

On a cool, sunny morning last October, as tens of thousands of runners raced east toward downtown, I was watching the Chicago Marathon from eight floors up, in a hospital room at Rush University Medical Center.

Instead of attempting what would have been my 11th 26.2-miler, I was being treated for atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat — or arrhythmia — that made it tough for me to run very fast, or very far.

I was diagnosed the previous spring, after weeks of struggling to run the 8:30-minute-per-mile pace that had become routine for me over the last 10 years. Even during relatively brief, three-mile outings, I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath.

So I went to see my primary care doctor at Rush, who ordered the electrocardiogram that immediately revealed my arrhythmia. To be honest, I wasn’t all that surprised. I had suspected for several years, particularly after long marathon training runs, that my heartbeat was a little off. But even though I’m pretty health-conscious — maybe even borderline hypochondriac — I failed to appreciate that it could be something serious.

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Ask the Sports Doctor: Running Injury Q&A

Joshua Blomgren, DO, a sports medicine physician with Rush University Medical Center and Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, recently took part in an online chat about treatment and prevention of common running injuries. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the discussion.

I started running for the Chicago Half Marathon and started to have anterior knee pain and instability. I also started to have lots of grinding in both knees. Will I need time to rest? Would a knee brace help? 

Joshua Blomgren, DO: Anterior knee pain is a common complaint in runners. Very commonly the patellofemoral, or “knee cap” joint, is the culprit. The knee cap glides in a groove in the thigh bone with walking, running and activity. There is a complex interplay of leg alignment and muscular activity that contribute to the activity of the joint. If the joint is slightly out of alignment it can become painful. A lot of runners will experience it as they progress in their training. This is the likely cause, considering the pain and grinding sensation. There are some braces that can help improve the “knee cap” alignment, but most often a physical therapy program to strengthen the quadriceps and gluteus medius muscle can help alleviate your pain and help you to continue your training.

How important is post-run stretching in preventing injury? Any guidance on ideal length of time to spend stretching post-run?

Blomgren: Stretching has been shown in multiple studies to aid in injury prevention. There are two types of stretching — static and dynamic. Static is the more commonly known type as this is the commonly thought of “reach, stretch and hold.” Dynamic stretching is stretching the muscles as you are using them. Dynamic stretching has been shown to be most beneficial as part of the warm-up, and static stretching is done as part of a cool-down. Make sure to focus on the major muscle groups of the legs.

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Running Injuries Rise With Marathon Training Mileage

Join Joshua Blomgren, DO, for tips on running injury prevention and treatment during an online chat from noon to 1 p.m. on July 25. Visit our Rush Facebook page to sign up for a reminder and view the chat.

By Joshua Blomgren, DO

As the temperatures rise in Chicago, I also see a rise in the number of running injuries that present to my office. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon hosts over 40,000 runners, many from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, for the annual event that takes place in October.

Many runners see a large increase in their mileage as they begin to progress in their training programs, and most training plans for an October marathon will have the runners begin to progress to 10 miles and beyond around this time of year. It’s not uncommon for a patient to say things such as, “I did my long run this weekend and …” or “I did 10 miles last weekend, and this is the farthest I have ever run.” Often these long runs are met with aches and pain as the runners push toward their goal of completing 26.2 miles.

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