Researchers have just concluded that triathlons pose at least twice the risk of sudden death as marathons do.
The study also concluded that most of the risk is mostly from heart problems during the swimming leg of the race. And
while that risk is low — about 15 out of a million participants — it' s
not inconsequential, the study' s author says.
Several years ago in Boulder, Colorado at the Boulder Peak Triathlon a age-group triathlete died during the swim portion of the race.
"Howard Garcia, 76, died on race day from an irregular heartbeat
brought on by heart disease. Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure said
Garcia' s death was natural, and it could have happened even if he had
not been participating in the race."
"It' s something someone just signs up to do," often without a medical
checkup to rule out heart problems, said Dr. Kevin Harris, a
cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern
Hospital. "They might prepare for a triathlon by swimming laps in their
pool. That' s a lot different than swimming in a lake or a river."
"He led the study and presented results Saturday at an American
College of Cardiology conference in Florida. The Minneapolis
institute' s foundation sponsored the work and tracks athlete-related
sudden deaths in a national registry.
made headlines in November 2007 when 28-year-old Ryan Shay died while
competing in New York in the men' s marathon Olympic trials. Statistics
show that for every million participants in these 26.2-mile running
races, there will be four to eight deaths.
The rate for
triathletes is far higher — 15 out of a million, the new study shows.
Almost all occurred during the swim portion, usually the first event.
that jumps into freezing cold water knows the stress on the heart,"
said Dr. Lori Mosca, preventive cardiology chief at New
York-Presbyterian Hospital and an American Heart Association
spokeswoman. She had no role in the study but has competed in more than
100 triathlons, including the granddaddy — Hawaii' s Ironman competition."