Experts from St George’s, University of London, were on duty in case of medical emergencies at this weekend’s 36th London Marathon as over 40,000 runners took part in Britain’s largest sporting event. 

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As the Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon, Professor Sanjay Sharma, of St George’s University of London, is ultimately responsible for the organisation of medical support for the runners.

He said: "The medics, nurses, physiotherapists and podiatrists worked relentlessly with excellent results. We had 34 hospitalisations but many had already been discharged before the day was over.

"There were no fatalities so we were delighted about that.

"The Royal family were really impressed with the medical set up."

On-the-ground support was led by 1,500 volunteer members of St John Ambulance. They were joined by a team of 160 doctors from all over the country with specialist expertise in intensive care, anaesthetics, sports medicine, orthopaedics and neurology.

Students from the St John Ambulance LINKS unit, based at St George’s, as well as trainee medical students, physiotherapists and paramedics, were amongst those volunteering to care for runners along the course and at the finish line.

Five mobile cardiac ambulances and ambulance stations provided support, with additional paramedics and numerous nurses, physiotherapists and podiatrists.

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Professor Sharma said: “Last year we had 5,051 medical contacts. One person died and there were two successful resuscitations for cardiac arrest, as well as 44 hospitalisations, many requiring overnight stays. There were eight cases of heat injury or heatstroke.”

His advice to doctors attending the marathon in their medical capacity was to help the runners achieve their personal goals safely wherever possible, providing immediate treatment and then enabling them to return to the race.

However doctors also advised runners to stop when it was necessary in the interests of their health, and provided treatment or gave onward referrals for serious conditions after the race. At the other end of the spectrum doctors had to be ready to provide life-saving interventions and transportation to definitive medical care.

As well as the 20 St George's students volunteering for LINKS, many others from the university joined a group of over two hundred students from other London universities including UCL, King’s College and Kingston University. 

Anyone interested in joining SGUL LINKS, the group that organises the volunteering, should contact Olivia Harnby, Unit Manager: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The first London Marathon was held on 29 March 1981 with 6,747 runners and was an immediate success with the runners, the thousands of spectators who lined the course, and viewers who followed the race on the BBC.

The next year, three times as many runners were accepted, and the event’s popularity has continued to grow. More than three-quarters of competitors now run for a good cause, and since its inception more than £830 million has been raised for charity.