Vol 68, No 1 (2017)
Original article
Published online: 2017-03-30

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Preparation and medical follow-up for a single-handed transatlantic rowing race

Mathieu Carron, Mathieu Coulange, Christophe Dupuy, Pierre Mastalski, Bruno Barberon, Alexis Roullaud, Agnalys Desplantes, Jean-Pierre Auffray
Pubmed: 28357830
IMH 2017;68(1):7-11.


Background: A single-handed transatlantic rowing race was organised between Senegal and French Guyana (2600 nautical miles). During the race, rowers adjust their lifestyle to maintain an optimal level of performance. Nutrition, circadian rhythm disturbance, psychological state, pain and other medical problems impact on physical abilities and increase the occurrence of accidents. We surveyed the prevalence of medical complications during this race and the preparation that we could suggest for this kind of activity.

Materials and methods: This is a descriptive, retrospective case series study. Follow-up consisted of sending out a questionnaire and performing individual interviews.

Results: A total of 23 participants including 1 woman and 22 men; mean age of 46.5 years (range: 35–59) entered the race. The race lasted for 39 to 52 days with participants rowing between 10 and 12 h/day. Nine participants dropped out. Energy intake was 4500 to 6000 kcal/day and fluid intake was 4 to 5.5 L/day. Mean weight loss was 13.3 kg. The resting period was 6 ± 1 h/24 h divided into 1.5 to 2 h periods essentially during darkness. A total of 92% of the racers required medical care for dermatological problems; other conditions requiring medical care were: tendinitis in 10 cases, diarrhoea in 4, moderate to severe seasickness in 4, hallucinations in 3, panic attacks in 2, burns in 2, and disembarkation syndrome (“land sickness”) lasting from 45 min to 6 h in 13.

Conclusions: Physiological and psychological impact of this type of event is still unclear. The most common medical problems are dermatological, rheumatological complications and minor trauma. Medical and psychological preparation should be offered to candidates for these competitions.  


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