Preventing Shallow Water Blackout, A Leading Cause of In-Water Death Among Competitive Swimmers

Jun 22, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Swimmer in warm up pool before the start of the preliminary heats at the George F. Haines International Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Florida, September 16. SHALLOW water blackout, brought on by hypoxic training and pushing the boundaries of one’s breath-holding abilities, is one of the top causes of in-water death for competitive swimmers. Coaches, swimmers and parents are often not aware of the warning signs of impending shallow water blackout, but a new organization led by Dr. Rhonda Milner is aiming to increase awareness of this silent killer.

In this video interview from last week’s American Swim Coaches Association’s world clinic, Milner talked about the tragic death of her son from shallow water blackout that prompted her to create to educate people on the dangers of hypoxic training and why many don’t often see the danger until it’s too late.

Shallow water blackout occurs when the amount of oxygen going into the brain gets drastically low during breath-holding exercises underwater. The low level of carbon dioxide in the lungs often prompts the swimmer to black out underwater, even though he or she feels like they can hold their breath a bit longer.

Milner said the training practice of holding one’s breath to practice underwater kicking or the seemingly fun game of competing to see who can hold their breath the longest are two common places where shallow water blackout can occur. She points to the recent death of a swimmer at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, who was practicing his underwater kicking in front of lifeguards and in the presence of others in the pool, as an example of how hypoxic training is so normal that many do not keep a close eye on those doing it, even the well-trained athletes.

To learn more about Shallow Water Blackout, visit the organization’s website.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Helen Bayly
7 years ago

Crucial and life-saving information for all! Thanks to Swimming World for helping spread the Shallow Water Blackout info, world-wide. SWB has been recognized for years, but to most folks it is still an unknown danger. This is an excellent SWB article that we all can send to/share with swimmers, communities, playgrounds, organizers, seep-sea divers, countless others…This information can prevent other tragic deaths from Shallow Water Blackout. See the video too!