Swimming Deaths in Triathlon – Possible Causes

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Triathlete swim safety is a top priority in USAT sanctioned races.  Recent triathlon swimming fatalities do not seem to have a verifiable common cause
Triathlete swim safety is a top priority in USAT sanctioned multisport races. Recent triathlon swimming fatalities do not seem to have a verifiable common cause

Having discussed the triathlon swimming deaths with USAT CEO Rob Urbach, family of the athletes and read the accounts of these tragedies, there are several facts that perhaps point to a reason for these “unexplained fatalities.” The sport of Triathlon is very safe, as USAT sanctioned races have a number of rules in place to protect the athletes.

Yet this year there have been several deaths during the swimming portion of these multisport events. Several of the athletes were members of a relay team, experienced and fit swimmers, who expired at the beginning of the competition. In the face of the autopsies that did not reveal an outside cause of the racer’s demise, the triathlon world is left to ponder why and how.

Having studied exercise physiology and struggled with issues of medical causation here at the Landau Law Shop, I re-read the coverage concerning death in swimming competitions. We previously wrote about the death of elite swimmer Fran Crippen. News reports indicate that “those who trained with Crippen said he also used GU energy gel a replenishing liquid that contains high amounts of caffeine. The swimmer reportedly consumed 10 to 15 packs during a typical two-hour swim.” This got me to thinking. Perhaps significant pre-exercise caffeine, coupled with stress, anxiety and/or underlying cardio-pulmonary pathology could be the elusive explanation. In tomorrow’s post we will look further into this subject.

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