Death by marathon?

This morning, a friend sent me a link to this article from the New York Times…

FASHION & STYLE | December 7, 2006
Is Marathoning Too Much of a Good Thing for Your Heart?
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
After years in which almost no deaths were attributed to heart attacks in this country’s major marathons, at least six runners have died in 2006.

I didn’t intend to read the article figuring it was a bunch of alarmist crap. Plus, the discussion was beaten to death on the Runner’s World marathon forum awhile back so I’ve been weary of reading about such topics. But going through my newsreader this evening I can across Dr. Joan Bushwell’s rebuttal of said article. Dr. Bushwell mentioned statisticians, so I got interested and went back and read the New York Times article.

The examples the New York Times article uses are of 50-60 year old men. That’s understandable considering who is more likely a priori to have a heart attack. The question is, in these studies that conclude a link between marathon running and heart attack risk, did the analysis adjust for medical history, i.e. did they account for years of unhealthy living before marathoners became marathoners? I don’t have full-text access from home to the papers cited. But I’ll download them when I get into work tomorrow.

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