What Triathletes Need to Know about SIPE–Cause of Death in Swims?

By Susan Lacke, Triathlete Magazine:

Researchers have spent hundreds of hours trying to understand what is causing deaths in triathlon swims. 

Though deaths during triathlon races don’t occur often, they do occur – at a rate of about one in every 76,000 participants. Of those deaths, more than 72 percent happen in the swim.

It’s understandable, then, that people would start to question the safety of the triathlon swim – are races doing enough to keep their swimmers safe? Many races have responded to these concerns with new initiatives, like rolling or wave swim starts instead of mass swim starts, increased lifeguard presence, and an abundance of caution – even going so far to cancel swims in weather conditions that would have been considered acceptable a decade ago.

And yet, swim deaths still occur. Researchers are now beginning to better understand one possible reason why: SIPE, or Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema. Researchers like Dr. Richard Moon of Duke University have dedicated hundreds of hours trying to understand this phenomenon – and hopefully, to reduce the likelihood of it happening during triathlon races.

What is SIPE?

In layman’s terms, SIPE is a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid and blood. “This occurs when there is greater to normal pressure within the pulmonary capillaries, causing a breakdown of the membrane separating the blood from the gas spaces, or alveoli,” explains Moon. “Some have referred to SIPE as ‘drowning from the inside.’ This condition occurs in swimmers and divers, particularly – but not always – during heavy exertion, such as in the swim portion of the triathlon.”

To learn more about SIPE, its symptoms and what to do go HERE

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