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New study finds triathlons can be deadly

Posted Apr 02 2009 12:18pm

Swim 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.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera:

"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."

According to the Associated Press:

"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.

Marathon-related deaths 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.

"Anyone 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."

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