Runners who run very long distances suffer cartilage damage in their lower joints — but the cartilage can regenerate, a small study suggests. The researchers also found that the runners had lost about 6 percent of their brain’s gray matter by the end of the race. But eight months later, their gray matter volume had returned to normal.
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The study included 44 runners taking part in the 2009 Trans Europe Foot Race, which involved running nearly 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles) over two months without any days of rest.
Using a mobile MRI truck, the researchers scanned the runners every three or four days during the event. Nearly all cartilage in knee, ankle and hind-foot joints showed significant deterioration in the first 900 to 1,550 miles of the race. The findings are to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.