Thursday, May 16, 2013

USA Today: Triathlon deaths infographic - Swimming leads in fatalities.

UPDATE: Disturbing quote from Rob Urbach, CEO of USA Triathlon:. " ...said the number of deaths simply reflects the sport's rapid growth. Between 2003 and 2011, annual participants in U.S. triathlons grew from 193,000 to almost a half-million..."

With that in mind, when you compare that there was a single triathlon swim death in 2003 versus 9-fatalities in 2011, why is it that when the sport grew 259% in those years the fatalities grew a disproportionate 900%?

From 2003 to 2012 Nearly 4xs the amount of athletes died during the swim than they did on the bike. When compared to running more than 15xs more swimmers died than runners.

Possible causes: Wetsuit fit, swim conditions, frantic race starts, heart defects, stress. However, one doctor who is a triathlete has his own theory which has been discussed here on the blog in the comments section:

Dr. Rudy Dressendorfer, a longtime triathlete, disagrees. He thinks the problems arise when athletes do not warm up before starting the swim. Going from a resting stage to a sprint can put pressure on the heart, and a violent escalation of blood flow can shatter capillaries in the lungs, causing pulmonary edema.

[Link]

I completely agree.

9 comments:

Button said...

have to wonder if these folks had their heart attacks during the swim only because it was the fist leg of the event.

if the bike or run were first, would those deaths have occurred then?

Anonymous said...

While i don't disagree with Dr. Dressendorfer i think he needs to be more specific. If it is older athletes (say 50 0r 60+ years) then the likelihood of coronary artery disease causing a heart attack or arrhythmic death is highly likely. Younger athletes are much more likely to have it related to a congenital defect or arrhythmia caused by another reason (ie., electrolyte abnormality, drugs, etc.). I do agree warm up is important and allowing swimmers to warm up a bit is a good step forward

Tony Austin said...

To the Texas Swimmer: Your solution would would address Dr. Dressendorfer suggestion wonderfully. I do wonder about the fatigue factor though but these people are suppose to be "super human" or at the very least prepared don't you think?

Next for anonymous. We are all summarily guessing about what to do or what went wrong including Dr. Dressendorfer.

To both of you:

FINA, the international governing body for swimming has been the most incompetent on this subject and that is not hyperbole. Sanctioned FINA events have had a seasoned pro die or others nearly die in their open water events. (Dubai and Singapore as examples.)

Next, triathlon deaths during the swim portion are blooming or growing faster than the sport itself. More people die in triathlons than they do in MMA or UFC fights combined.

What your anon post made me realize is that some serious, actuary, math has got to look at what is going wrong form a numbers point of view. This includes age, medical history, conditioning, swim times, skills etc. etc.

Hmmm, Perhaps no swimmer who can hold a 1:30 per 100-yards has never died?

I was suppose to do the Alcatraz Sharkfest this weekend; it would have been my 8th crossing. I cancelled for many reasons but the main reason was that I don't feel at the best and I swim 3-5-days a week between 2,500 - 3,500-yards each workout. Perhaps the obvious reason for the deaths is that these people are not prepared.

The Swim IT said...

Why is there a rush to judge the fatal swims as heart attacks?
When you think about it, without an autopsy, we are just guessing the cause of death? Why not an embolism, stroke, blood clot, SIPE? You get the point that every one is assuming the deaths are heart related because the "experts" like race directors and talking heads say it is so. I just read the USA Today article, and the RD was saying it was an undiagnosed heart condition that caused the heart attack before the guy was taken to the morgue? How could he know that? And why would guess its the heart? Maybe it's just easiest to assume the cause of death is beyond anyones control?
I swim with a Race Approved swim safety device (SSD). It's called the Swim IT and could save my life... it has already saved multiple lives since it was race approved last year.
I'm just saying, a little peace of mind strapped to my leg is great insurance against the unknown.

The Swim IT said...

Look, according to the USAT Fatality Study, 5 of 8 deaths signaled for help before drowning... hardly the realm of "sudden cardiac arrest?" if you have time to signal. Second, without an autopsy, guessing the cause of death is cardiac related is just a guess. There seems to be a rush to blame drowning on Sudden Cardiac Arrest without evidence to back it up?
Getting your stress test done is an excellent idea, but until we know what is causing seemingly healthy veteran triathletes to drown, do the responsible thing and get yourself some peace of mind with protection... get a USAT race approved SSD (Like the Swim IT)

Tony Austin said...

How does it work?

The Swim IT said...

Tony, The Swim IT is a USAT and Ironman Race approved swim safety device that is worn on the back of the right leg. IT was declared race legal because the Swim IT does not assist or hinder an athletes ability while swimming; however, if needed you just give the "Jerk to Inflate" tab a pull and the personal flotation device (PFD) automatically inflates. It is tethered to you and floats to the surface. You can hold onto the life jacket or don it by pulling it over your head. After donning the life jacket, you could become unconscious and not drown!
The Swim IT is reusable, after replacing the CO2 cartridge and repacking it into the pouch.
It has been featured in Triathlete Magazine (April, 2013 pg50) and on multiple gear review sites like DCRainmaker, etc.
I should point out that it is completely undetectable when worn during a swim!
It just makes sense to wear something that could save your life or someone your with, and doesn't slow you down at all.
The hardest obstacle to overcome is accepting the fact that swimming is both fun and dangerous. Rookies get it right away, but it is the veteran triathletes that push themselves and occasionally populate the fatal swim column.
Thanks for listening! I wish you many enjoyable open water swims! Rick

The Swim IT said...

Tony, The Swim IT is a USAT and Ironman Race approved swim safety device that is worn on the back of the right leg. IT was declared race legal because the Swim IT does not assist or hinder an athletes ability while swimming; however, if needed you just give the "Jerk to Inflate" tab a pull and the personal flotation device (PFD) automatically inflates. It is tethered to you and floats to the surface. You can hold onto the life jacket or don it by pulling it over your head. After donning the life jacket, you could become unconscious and not drown!
The Swim IT is reusable, after replacing the CO2 cartridge and repacking it into the pouch.
It has been featured in Triathlete Magazine (April, 2013 pg50) and on multiple gear review sites like DCRainmaker, etc.
I should point out that it is completely undetectable when worn during a swim!
It just makes sense to wear something that could save your life or someone your with, and doesn't slow you down at all.
The hardest obstacle to overcome is accepting the fact that swimming is both fun and dangerous. Rookies get it right away, but it is the veteran triathletes that push themselves and occasionally populate the fatal swim column.
Thanks for listening! I wish you many enjoyable open water swims! Rick

Tony Austin said...

That's absolutely amazing... I would like to feature it and do a blog post on it.