The 40th Cape Town Cycle Tour will take place on Sunday, 12 March 2017. This popular annual event is the largest, timed cycling event in the world and on Sunday morning 35 000 cyclists will line up to race through some of the world's most spectacular scenery with the iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop. The gruelling 109km route does of course take its toll on the bodies of participants, no matter their level of physical fitness, which is why the organisers have introduced a health questionnaire as part of the race registration process to help medical staff prepare for possible medical emergencies that may occur on Race Day.
A medical screening questionnaire and targeted educational intervention programme, orginally developed for distance running events by Prof Martin Schwellnus from the Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Research Institute (SEMLI) at the University of Pretoria (UP), was adapted for cycling and implemented by Mediclinic, the official medical supplier for the Cape Town Cycle Tour. The screening questionnaire primarily aims to provide participants with personalised advice to prevent medical complications and injuries during cycling, based on the fields that they flag when completing the questionnaire. If a participant, for example indicates that they often suffer from symptoms when cycling, they are immediately provided with an advice sheet telling them what to look out for. The hope is that these educational interventions will help riders make more informed decisions, and assist them to exercise safely every single day – not just on Race Day. In addition the information supplied in the questionnaire makes it easier for health care providers to treat riders more effectively if they require medical attention during the race.
'We had patients who had serious life-threatening issues in last year's race, and if it weren't for the information they gave us in the questionnaire, we wouldn't have been able to treat them so effectively. The more information we have, the better we can manage people on Race Day', says Dr Jann Killops, Race Doctor for the Cape Town Cycle Tour and post-graduate student at UP.
A secondary, but equally important reason behind the introduction of the questionnaire is research. Researchers from the SEMLI at UP and Mediclinic want to look at the population of cyclists taking part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour to see what happens to them on Race Day. The research team will do their measurements using the data provided in the questionnaires, after which they will de-identify the data gathered from the responses of riders who have indicated that their data may be included in the research study. This general, anonymous data set will then be analysed in collaboration with the Biostatistics Unit at the South African Medical Research Council. The idea is to build up a data base that will allow health care providers to minimise and manage the occurrence of injuries and other health risks at these types of events. The team hopes to use the data gathered from the event to develop an intervention specifically for the Cape Town Cycle Tour, as well as for cycle races in general.
According to Prof Schwellnus, researchers from the SEMLI at UP are already collaborating with organisers of other mass participation events, to see whether this type of screening and targeted educational intervention programme can be administered there as well. The information gathered in the process will be invaluable in enabling the organisers of these events and the health care practitioners that assist them to better predict if there will be health-related issues on the day of a major sporting event based on the risk factors that can be identified beforehand. This will then allow them to plan accordingly and in the process add new rigour to the discipline of sport and exercise medicine.