heart and health of triathletes

Triathlons are good for you. That’s what they say. But, there’s been some stir in the news over the last couple years, with the flap about some sudden deaths at a triathlons. Well, in case you were wondering about the facts, here’s a summary of all triathlon deaths from 1980s to 2017… It’s usually middle aged men, and during the swim. So, I’ve always been right! I used to finish the swim and think to myself, I’m going to make it. And, since I got through the swim, the odds were indeed in my favor of surviving the full triathlon. It’s fairly serendipitous that I came upon these articles, while researching cardiac papers for my day job. But, they are doubly interesting to me for both triathlon concerns and cardiac health data.

New Study: Sudden Death in Tri Hits This Age Group the Hardest
From Triathlete Magazine, Sept 2017. updated study.

This analysis of the larger group of victims confirms some of the findings from the 2011 study:
– The majority of victims are male
– Almost 40% of victims were first-time triathlon participants
– No elite or professional athletes were among the victims
– The risk is similar regardless of the race distance
– The majority of deaths occur during the swim segment

But there’s new information in the updated study, too. The more complete findings include:
– Among the expanded group of victims, heart disease was found in nearly 50% of victims
– The risk for women is much lower than for men
– In women, the risk increases slightly with aging; In men, the risk increases dramatically with aging.

There are two important takeaway messages, says Creswell:

“First, our findings suggest that male triathletes who have reached middle age should, along with their physicians, pay particular attention to their heart health. This is the clearly the group of athletes with the greatest risk. Second, the pattern of fatalities suggests that race organizers should focus their efforts specifically on safety planning and execution for the swim segment.”

More on Triathlon Fatalities–A Scientific Report, From Cardiologist’s Blog. 2016.

Myocardial Fibrosis Seen in Competitive Male Triathletes, From medical journal website. Myocardial Fibrosis = abnormal thickening of the heart valves

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