Another Triathlon Death, Yes, The Swim Leg Again
Last week we reported the death of a 43-year-old man who “experienced distress” during the swim leg of the first New York Iron Man event. Now comes more tragic news from Burlington Vermont, where a man in his 50s died yesterday morning after being pulled from Lake Champlain during the 1.5 kilometer swim leg of the USA Triathlon in Vermont. More about it at Boston.com. Last year, two competitors died in the 1.5 kilometer swim leg of the New York Triathlon, prompting officials at USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body in the United States, to consider additional safety measures, particularly for the swimming leg of the popular and stressful races. The New York Times reports that 13 of the 14 deaths in triathlons from 2006 to 2008 took place during the swim legs, and that autopsies on nine of the victims found that seven had heart abnormalities. Researchers believe the existing heart problems were exacerbated by the stress of swimming in open water, particularly open water that was packed with competitors kicking their feet inches from one’s face. The paper reports that the risk of sudden death in a triathlon is 1.5 deaths per 100,000 participants compared with 0.8 deaths per 100,000 participants in a marathon. The natural tendency to panic in a roiling rush of bodies in open water is amplified, the Times reports, by increasingly crowded fields of competitors. The paper reports that in 1993, USA Triathlon had fewer than 16,000 members, but since 2000, membership has skyrocketed, hitting 58,000 by 2005 and 140,000 in 2010. In those same 10 years, the number of triathlon clubs in the United States grew to 869 from 50. Is that really a good thing? Or are there too many people trying to do something that puts their lives at risk?