Triathlons Twice as Deadly as Marathon

Dr Kevin Harris

Dr Kevin Harris

A recent study by the Minneapolis Heart Institute provides data that twice as many people die, per million during triathlons than marathons.

The Pioneer Press reported on Dr Harris’ research:

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.

That most triathlon deaths occur during the swim portion of the event makes sense.  Any injury or fatigue in the water could create a potential drowning incident.  Both events are still relatively safe, in a 33 month period 14 triathletes died out of a total of 922,000 competitors.

Out of the 14 athletes, 6 were autopsied and four of those had documentable pre-exsisting heart conditions.  The water temperature and stress of competition can exasperacte these conditions.  A normal heart may also react negatively in these situations as well.

Their advice:

Doctors offer these tips to anyone considering a triathlon:

—Get a checkup to make sure you don’t have hidden heart problems.

—Train adequately long before the event, including open-water swims — not just in pools.

—Acclimate yourself to the water temperature shortly before a race, and wear a wetsuit if it’s too cold.

—Make sure the race has medical staff and defibrillators on site.

[tags] Triathlon, Marathon, Heart, Heart Research [/tags]

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3 thoughts on “Triathlons Twice as Deadly as Marathon

  1. Bob Allen

    So, I wonder what the death rate is for shorter races — half marathon, 10K, 5K? The whole marathons are bad for you (or any running whatsoever) thing is way overblown.

    Reply
  2. Bob Allen

    I just looked at the AP report on the study and even the headline and first paragraph are sensational: Triathlons can pose deadly heart risks — Warning to weekend warriors: Swim-bike-run triathlons pose at least twice the risk of sudden death as marathons do, the first study of these competitions has found. . Sounds like a warning to stay away from triathlons despite the fact that only 15:1 million actually die during triathlons.

    Reply
  3. crossn81 Post author

    Sensational headlines attract readers!

    But overall the risks are in your favor. I would agree that the risks often get overblown, but I think a lot of people don't look at the risks enough – especially in triathlons.

    Reply

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