Long distance runners are healthier, but also injury risks

 Jennifer Frighetto is not a marathoner, but it’s not for lack of trying. Had she crossed the finish line at this year’s race in Chicago, it would have been her first successful attempt at the 26.2-mile distance. But just as at the 2008 and 2009 Chicago Marathons, Frighetto was unable to finish because of injury, according to a story in the New York Times.

Frighetto, a self-described former couch potato, said that since she first decided to run a marathon in late 2006, she has seen doctors for a stress fracture in her foot, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome. The activity that promised to make her healthier was actually increasing the frequency of her doctor visits, a fact that makes amateur athletes like her a problematic group of people for health insurance companies to insure.

And as more and more people become marathoners — the 2011 Boston Marathon sold out in eight hours — distance runners are becoming a hard group to ignore.

“Insurance companies love runners because they’re healthy people,” said Nathan Nicholas, the president of Nicholas Hill Group, a Colorado-based insurance brokerage firm that works with USA Triathlon. “Many of them are younger and have disposable incomes. They’re a great demographic.”

But, he added, because they train so hard, they have injuries and accidents that can sometimes make them difficult to insure.

Distance running, in particular, has a documented history of injury: a 2007 study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found rates of injury to the lower extremities were as high as 79 percent in long-distance runners.

 “Athletes are going to have more injuries than a couch potato,” said Kevin Luss, the founder of New York-based insurance services company the Luss Group. “But their height-weight ratio and cholesterol will be better than a couch potato’s. Their physiological age will be younger.”


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