dswezey wrote:This issue is complicated with many facets to discuss. The big one is that if you have a heart attack when running or biking you are not also in a position to drown. And, its much more obvious to competitors and bystanders that action needs to be taken. Even in a pool at a swim meet it would be obvious to everyone watching that something wasn't right and pull the victim out. Not so much in open water.
My main suggestion would be for more lifeguards on the swim course. Maybe there should be a required ratio of X# guards to swimmers.
It is very hard to recognize someone that is truly drowning VS someone that is distressed and needs help.
Someone that is actually drowning there is No yelling, No waving. Just a silent gasping for air and 20 to 60 seconds later, submersion. And someone has drowned, maybe in plain site. "Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect," That happens before you start to drown.
Why someone starts drowning can be from any number of issues. Many of which have been addressed in some way on this forum. Some are;
Poor fitness/Skill? IMO If you are in a wetsuit, its a lot harder to drown for these reasons. Its not from lack of buoyancy where you exhaust yourself and sink. While this may happen it may be the least likely. I'm not suggesting it doesn't happen because people have drowned with a life preserver on or in a shallow tub.
SIPE - This is real but only happens in a small number of cases. It is often preceded by a very obvious coughing situation. This is where having more lifeguards on course could make a big difference where there are clear signs of trouble.
Cardiac or other sudden issue that is unknown and unforeseen even by the very fit athlete. What is anyone supposed to do about this? Go back to the "silent drowning" issue. Only if they are lucky and flag at first sign of their own distress or they have an aware competitor or life guard is there a chance to save and resuscitate.
This post is spot on. I don't think the issue is lack of preparation or even availability of warm-up or tightness of the wetsuit. I just think that there are some athletes that have diagnosed or un-diagnosed heart conditions that show up on the swim simply because it is the first leg of their race day. If this happened in a marathon it would be much more surviveable because people can see when someone drops in the middle of the road. Events like this in the water are harder to survive unless someone is specifically watching out for you. I believe this is the root issue with the deaths in the water.
I believe the idea of increasing the number of lifeguards per participants is absolutely the best way to address this issue. People who run into these unforeseen issues in a swim need better chances of survival. I think wetsuits, even if a bit too warm, are key to survive a heart event like this and then you need enough people out there to notice that someone is bobbing unresponsive in the water. I would say expand the temps where wetsuits are legal and increase the number of lifeguards. These approaches increase the chances for athletes to survive these heart issues. If the industry keeps trying to attack the root cause of the heart issues they will just be chasing their tails.