Hordes of people descended upon Devil’s Head resort in Merrimac last weekend for the Tough Mudder competition, and some found their way to area emergency rooms.
Some suffered from dehydration, while others sought treatment for fractures, dislocations and lacerations.
Kari Hall, director of emergency room services and urgent care at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital, said on a typical Saturday during the summer the hospital’s emergency room will see about 50 patients. That number jumped to 69 on Saturday.
Last weekend, 21 Tough Mudders walked through the hospital doors at Sauk Prairie Memorial on Saturday, with another five Sunday.
"We had people with orthopedic issues such as fractures to their arms or legs. Some suffered from dehydration. We had one person with a cardiac complaint," Hall said. "That was just Saturday, but on Sunday we took five more Tough Mudder patients with some of the same type of injuries — fractures, dislocations and dehydration."
She said the hospital increased its staffing for the Tough Mudder event. "We opened a 14-bed area to go with our 10-bed emergency room," Hall said.
She said there wasn’t a need to staff the 14-bed area Sunday, but there was a need for extra employees.
"Everyone was well taken care of in a timely fashion," Hall said. "We knew we would be busy, so we made extra efforts to get the patients the help they needed quickly."
She said some patients had to stay overnight, but because of privacy laws, Hall could not comment on the number of Tough Mudders who were admitted.
Some Tough Mudder competitors also made their way to St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo.
"We saw 10 patients who participated in the Tough Mudder event on Saturday and just one on Sunday," said Alice Facey, vice president of patient care services. "It wasn’t really that busy for us. We could have anywhere between 40 to 70 patients on a weekend day, but it varies. Summer is a busy time for us and any other hospital in the area."
She said the hospital planned on having additional staff on duty — not necessarily because the Tough Mudder was close to Baraboo, but to keep patients who came into the hospital moving along smoothly.
"We did plan on extra staff and had some of our nursing staff on call, but we ended up calling only one person in to help," Facey said.
She said while some of the patients who participated in the Tough Mudder event were treated and released, one or two of them were admitted to the hospital.
Will Dean, corporate executive officer and co-founder of Tough Mudder, said Devil’s Head was a great host for Wisconsin’s first Tough Mudder event.
"We attracted more than 11,000 participants, as well as a record number of spectators who were able to experience the Tough Mudder lifestyle firsthand," Dean said in a release.
He said Tough Mudder is one of the most "physically-demanding events on the planet," where injuries will happen.
"Unfortunately, during this past weekend, a participant did suffer two fractured vertebrae to his spinal column," Dean said. "We have been monitoring his condition closely and we are glad to report that he is on the road to recovery. While we do not make light of this particular injury, it is important to note that of the 90,000 people who have done a Tough Mudder, there have been no life-altering injuries."
He said organizers of the event take every precaution to create a healthy environment where participants can push the limits of their strength.
"During every Tough Mudder, trained emergency personnel are on site to respond to medical emergencies and event coordinators constantly monitor our obstacles to ensure that as conditions change, participant safety is never sacrificed," Dean said.
Facey said it’s a personal decision to participate in an event like the Tough Mudder.
"If they get hurt, we are here to treat them," she said. "We are always prepared to increase our staffing if it is necessary."
Hall, who competes in adventure races, said the people she talked with in the emergency room were well-trained for the Tough Mudder, but accidents happen.
"You know the risks of what you’re getting yourself into when you sign up," she said. "You will definitely increase your risk of getting hurt when you’re jumping from certain heights into water and running up slippery hillsides. Even if you are physically fit, one slip is all it takes and you can end up in the hospital with a fractured arm or leg."