Enjoy the Obstacle Course Race—Just Be Prepared

The organized obstacle course or “adventure” race is one of the fastest growing sporting activities with roughly 1.5 million participants in 2012 and more expected in the coming years. 1 Races like the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and the Spartan Race appeal to fitness-conscious participants, offering a change of pace from road races or triathlons. Challenging obstacles and courses up to twelve miles or more of varied terrain introduce the risk of injury, sometimes serious

While the event organizers emphasize safety, they encourage participants to overcome their fears and limitations with camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment. This perceived pressure to perform may create an unsafe combination when the athlete is underprepared or has an underlying medical condition.

Athletes participating in any endurance activity should always:

• Hydrate appropriately before the race begins and stop at designated rest stops and hydration stations to drink fluids and eat as necessary

• Be aware of temperature and weather conditions for the day and dress appropriately.

• Make sure your attire and shoes fit properly and are what is recommended by race organizers.

• Consider the altitude and the extra fatigue that comes with racing in certain locations.

Common injuries during these types of races include scrapes, bruises, and strains. Dislocations, fractures, and significant lacerations have also been reported. Some races design obstacles with electric shocks potentially exposing participants to dislocations and cardiac irregularities. Heights and water obstacles are often involved and represent the greatest risk of serious injury and even death. Though extremely rare, given the number participants, drowning and paralysis have occurred. 2

As with all endurance activities, proper training and preparation are the first steps to injury prevention. Participants should be aware of the types of activities they will be doing while traversing the obstacles, and prepare as best as possible, including:

• Running on uneven terrain

• Practicing open water swimming

• Climbing over materials at the heights that will occur during the race, if need be

• Thinking through the race and its various components—mental preparation is sometimes as essential as physical preparation

• Consider doing portions of the race or certain obstacles at a slower pace or not at all, taking some personal responsibility for your own safety

Many of these races promote teamwork and helping one another through the race, which can also help prevent injuries.

While not every injury can be prevented, knowledge of activities involved, a proper training regimen, racing smartly, and knowing your own limitations can make for a safe and enjoyable event.

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