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Extreme Heat, Extreme Exercise And Extreme Risk
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Extreme Heat, Extreme Exercise And Extreme Risk

Two athletes competing in a triathalon in New York City have died, calling into question just how safe certain activities, especially during the hot summer months really are. Both died during the swimming part of the competition which is the section of the race that has been cited as the most dangerous, even for the healthiest and most highly trained athlete.

Experts are saying that it is a combination of the hot weather, the excitement of the competition and the cold water that may cause an arrhythmia, even in a relatively healthy heart. That misfiring of the heart’s rhythm may be problematic on land but in the water, it increases the risk of drowning. The heat for the current summer has been extreme, especially in certain areas of the nation.

In the 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, athletes who compete in the intense, three part triathalon are at a much higher risk of dying than those who are running in marathons and other long distance runs. The journal’s author has found that the risk for athletes in triathalons was 1.5 deaths per 100,000 while the rate of deaths for marathon runners was .8 per 100,000.

The journal has also found that between 2006-2008 there were 14 deaths for triathletes, 13 of those died during the swimming portion of the event. Autopsies revealed an undiagnosed heart condition in 7 out of 9 of the deceased.

The heat accounts for more visits to the emergency room, especially among certain age groups and for those in certain activities. Nearly six thousand people race to the emergency rooms during the summer months with heat exhaustion and dehydration. The heat is rated the leading cause of death and serious injuries among both high school and college athletes. Males make up nearly three quarters of the people sent to the ER because of the heat. Those in the 15-19 age category are at the highest risk with 20-24 year olds at the lowest risk. For those who are under 45, football is the activity that leads to the highest risk of heat exhaustion related illnesses, not only because of the intense exercise but because of the increased amount of gear that the athlete is wearing as well.Walking and jogging made up the second riskiest activity for the under 45 age group. Over the age of 45, however, golf becomes the highest risk factor.

Student athletes, especially those in the highest risk categories should be carefully monitored for any symptoms of heat exhaustion and should be medically evaluated if there are any noted problems. Hydration breaks should be mandatory as well. Practices should be scheduled for the cooler parts of the day or the evening hours whenever possible. Some schools have started to adopt new practice regulations in light of increased knowledge of the dangers of heat. Two high school students in Georgia have died during football practice.


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