CHICAGO, IL (October 9, 2012) – It was 4:30 a.m. and 40 degrees when North Park University students with the school’s Athletic Training Educational Program (ATEP) took the Brown Line train to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, but they were not there to run.
The 33 students were among more than 1,300 medical volunteers to care for the 45,000 runners. The North Park team also included seven university athletic trainers and physicians. Several ATEP alumni also held prominent roles in leading the Rapid Response Teams.
The North Parkers were part of the “sweep team,” which assisted runners as their bodies return to a stable state following the grueling 26.2-mile marathon. If any participant needed additional medical care, that person was directed to one of two medical tents that effectively served as a hospital. There were enough cots to treat 110 patients simultaneously.
According to race officials, 10 people were transported to an offsite hospital, which was down 44 from last year. One person suffered a heart incident. That number was down from previous years, in large part because temperatures remained in the 40s during most of the day on Sunday, Andrew Lundgren, associate professor of athletic training and director of the university’s ATEP, said. In 2007, high heat led to 174 people being taken to offsite hospitals.
The North Park ATEP has been involved with the Chicago Marathon for nearly a decade, providing students, graduates, faculty, and staff a valuable laboratory experience, said Lundgren.
“North Park prides itself on preparing students for lives of significance and service,” said Lundgren. “Volunteering for the Chicago Marathon is just one of many ways we try to instill this value in our students.
Former university athletic medical directors and team physicians also assisted on Sunday. “It really is amazing to see how many North Park connections are present within the Chicagoland medical community,” Lundgren said.
The university’s relationship with the marathon originated with Dr. George Chiampas, now the medical director of the Chicago Marathon and Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, another Chicago race held in conjunction with St. Patrick’s Day. Chiampas was a Fellow assigned to North Park University, where he learned about the ATEP.
“Dr. Chiampas approached us about staffing the finish line with athletic trainers. He said our skill sets were perfectly suited to differentiate what someone normally looks like after running 26.2 miles versus those runners that may be in medical distress,” Lundgren said.
In addition, Dr. Poonam Thaker, current North Park athletic medical director and head team physician, was responsible for 21 aid stations throughout this year’s marathon course. Justin Sjovall, head athletic trainer at North Park, led the urgent care section of the medical tent.
His workload is heavily dependent on the weather, Sjovall said. In recent years temperatures for the marathon have soared into the 80s. “We just can’t seem to catch a break, and have ideal running conditions. As a result, we treat between 600 and 1,200 runners each race.” Conditions that require treatment include hyperthermia, hypothermia, ‘runner’s collapse,’ electrolyte imbalances, as well as cardiac and musculoskeletal conditions.