HOUSTON — The family of a 27-year-old Ironman triathlon aspirant is seeking answers after he drowned in Lake Livingston during a 1.2-mile swim of a half-triathlon.
Collin Campbell of The Woodlands, a Houston suburb, had long made athletic achievement a priority, having qualified for a place on the U.S. Olympic development soccer team as a teenager. He had spent most of the past year working with a trainer to prepare for a full Ironman triathlon next month in North Carolina when he drowned on Sept. 11.
“His trainer said he swims twice that amount, so we don’t know what happened,” Campbell’s mother, Becky Campbell, told the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/2dnn9Jr ).
Experts say triathlon deaths are rare, about 1 in every 70,000 participants. However, most come during the swim, which comprises the first leg of the race and is most taxing for the heart. First-time triathletes like Collin Campbell make up about 40 percent of the deaths.
Dr. Lawrence Cresswell, a University of Mississippi cardiologist, said that of 45 triathlon deaths from 2003 through 2011, 31 came during the swim.
“It’s probably the most strenuous part of the day. For most athletes, the heart rate is probably highest during the swim portion,” he said.
Also, first-time triathletes might have undiagnosed heart conditions that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest or arrhythmia, Cresswell said. That is why he recommends newcomers undergo cardiac screening in addition to a general physical before training for endurance sports.
“I think it’s part of the human condition that exercise in some people can produce a sudden arrhythmia. We can work to nibble away at the problem, but I don’t think it will go away,” he told the Chronicle.
The death toll among triathletes may rise as more newcomers take up the sport, according to a USA Triathlon report Cresswell helped to write. USA Triathlon memberships have increased from 65,000 in 1994 to nearly 500,000 by 2014. The races — which include at least a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bicycle ride and a 13.1-mile run — nearly tripled from 2004 to 2014.
“This law of averages dictates that, as the sport continues to experience tremendous growth … the incidence of fatalities in the sport will likely increase as well,” according to the USA Triathlon report.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com