Study Targets Human Performance at Steamtown Marathon

Published on Tue, October 04, 2011

Runners will gather this Sunday for the 16th Annual Steamtown Marathon, held on Sunday, October 9. Unlike previous years, however, there will be a new element added to the race: science. For the first time, a team of researchers from Marywood University will study the development of lung water in marathon participants running in Sunday's race.

"We have an opportunity to do a study that has some interesting physiology," said Gerald Zavorsky, Ph.D., director of the human physiology lab and associate professor at Marywood University. "We are looking to see if there is an incidence of water accumulation that's triggered from marathon running."

Listen to Dr. Zavorsky discuss the implications of his study.

The central question the study seeks to answer: Is there a relationship between a runner's finishing time and lung water accumulation? According to Dr. Zavorsky, all types of runners—slow, medium and fast—develop lung water, but it's unclear whether this water build-up affects performance. What's more, the implications of this study can be significant, says Dr. Zavorsky. With thousands of marathon runners participating in races every year, the impact can be widespread.

"Is it serious for only the fast runners, or is it serious for everyone?" he asks. "The clinical implication is that it happens, but if it's serious, it is going to impact [a runner's] health, because the more water you have in your lungs, the less you are able to get oxygen into the bloodstream."

Dr. Zavorsky, a native of Montreal, Canada, will lead a team of chest radiologists and stenographers at the marathon to gather data; however, it may take months to interpret the results. Nevertheless, the Marywood professor is curious about what information this study will yield and is excited to get to work.

"It is a great opportunity to do a study in a town that hosts a marathon," said Dr. Zavorsky. "It's quite a complicated study and has never been done before."

For more information about this study, contact Dr. Gerald Zavorsky at (570) 961-4592.