Endurance athletes participate in triathlons are at danger of acquiring the potentially life-threatening condition of swimming-induced pulmonary edema, revealed a study.
According to cardiologists from Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, 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.
The research found that the increasing numbers of cases are being reported in community triathletes and army trainees and episodes are more likely to occur in highly fit individuals undertaking strenuous or competitive swims, particularly in cold water.
Dr David MacIver, lead author, said that 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 colleagues suggest that the unique combination of strenuous swimming, cold water 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.
The study found that 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.
The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.