Cardiologists from Musgrove Park Hospital (UK) have found that endurance athletes taking part in triathlons are at-risk for swimming-induced pulmonary edema.

A SAGE Publications news release notes that the condition, which causes an excess collection of watery fluid in the lungs, is likely to become more common with the increase in participation in endurance sports. An increasing number of cases are being reported in community triathletes and army trainees.

Episodes are more likely to occur in highly fit individuals undertaking competitive or strenuous swims, especially in cold water, as noted on the SAGE Publications news release.

Lead author of the study David MacIver, MB, BS, MD, states, “Swimming-induced pulmonary edema is a well-documented but relatively rare condition that may be misdiagnosed. If an accurate diagnosis and appropriate advice are not given individuals are at increased risk of future life threatening episodes and drowning.”

MacIver and his colleagues suggest that the unique combination of cold water, strenuous swimming, and a highly trained individual can lead to a mismatch in the ventricles’ stroke volume as the heart beats, resulting in the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, according to the SAGE Publications news release.

MacIver says, “If the athlete is in open water and unable or unwilling to rest while there is ongoing stroke volume difference, pulmonary edema can take place with potentially fatal consequences.”

MacIver adds, “An increased awareness of the risk of swimming-induced pulmonary edema among participants, organizers and medical personnel is important, especially as many may have swum before in the same conditions without experiencing symptoms.”

Source: SAGE Publications