by William O Roberts MD, MS
Medical care and support is an issue that is often forgotten in the decision to pursue a professional running career. A health care system to provide medical support should be a primary consideration in your decision tree. While runners tend to be healthy, a primary care physician to advise and direct health decisions and direct injury care can be a great benefit.
A critical issue for a post-collegiate distance running athlete is remaining injury free given the marked increase in training volume and intensity that is inherent in the professional program. A readily available network care of providers coordinated by a primary care physician (specialty physicians, athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractic providers, podiatrists, nutritionists, sports psychologists, and personal trainers) can optimize training and performance for the young professional.
Collegiate athletes are used to having ready access to the team athletic trainer or physician to provide guidance. For a post-collegiate athlete, even in an established training center, the burden to seek assistance falls on the athlete as the medical network will likely not be centralized to the training center facility.
Collegiate runners usually have health insurance through the college or their parents and some may be able to stay on their parents insurance until age 26 even if not in school. Obtaining reasonable insurance with a low deductible will facilitate the healthcare intervention and evaluation as the daunting cost of a high deductible insurance plan often keeps young runners, who are now on their own, from seeking care in an optimum time interval. Delays in care often make a minor problem worse. In any case, all runners should have health insurance of some kind.
William O Roberts MD, MS
Medical Consultant – Team USA Minnesota; faculty member, Department of Family Practice, University of Minnesota Medical School; Medical Director for the Twin Cities Marathon; past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.