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Marathon Medicine


Nelson Tang, right, and others from the Emergency Department with a patient at the Baltimore Marathon.

Sports medicine and emergency medicine might appear to be worlds apart, but a unique Hopkins program is bringing the two together. Nelson Tang heads the Emergency Department’s Special Operations unit, which delivers medical coverage on site at large events, including concerts and sports gatherings such as the Baltimore Marathon.

In just two years, the marathon, with about 9,000 people of all abilities and ages running the 26-mile course, has turned into a major logistical operation. Last year Tang deployed 10 ambulances and 110 Hopkins physicians, nurses, techs, paramedics and administrative assistants to cover the marathon. They manned seven mobile medical tents along the route as well as the main unit at the finish line. Over 150 people were treated, mostly for hypothermia and dehydration. Several runners were transported to area hospitals, including one with a suspected heart attack.

The biggest issue, Tang says, is advising runners to quit the race. “People want to return to the event, push forward, even against the advice of medical staff. These folks will sign waivers and press on.” The marathon has shown that even extremely well-conditioned athletes can run into serious problems. “If they come to us with shortness of breath and chest pain, we realize there might be an underlying problem,” says Tang. “We can’t submit to pressure to get those folks back out there. Just as in the hospital, we avert disaster by being alert to problems.”

 

 

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