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New Hypoxia Research Has Potential to Reduce Drowning Deaths

Posted on by VitalityPro
Phil White

Photo of Instructor Monitoring Athletes Hypoxia to Reduce Drowning DeathsStats show that 4,000 people die each year in the United States alone from drowning, making it the fifth leading cause of accidental death. Thousands more suffer brain damage from the effects of shallow water syncope (fainting) resulting from a lack of oxygen. Traditional thinking held that once someone came out of the water and took a breath, they would replenish their oxygen levels and be good to go. But new research shows this isn’t the case and indicates the need for a new water safety protocol that could reduce drowning deaths up to 75 percent and near-fatal shallow water blackouts.

A study conducted by Dr. Frank Merritt, founder of VitalityPro, shows that the old assumptions about hypoxia– a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level–are dangerously flawed. Previously, people assumed that the symptoms someone had when their body was critically low on oxygen would be easily noticeable and they’d recover quickly once they got to the surface of the water and resumed breathing. But Merritt’s research demonstrates that hypoxia continues for up to a minute after the person starts breathing normally again, meaning that they’re still in danger during this period. So for example, if someone has been swimming, performing breath holds or doing a pool workout and is low on oxygen, they’re not OK just because they’ve surfaced and are holding on the edge of the pool breathing and talking to you. In fact, the most dangerous time for them is the 50 to 60 seconds after they surface. Due to a delayed drop in oxygen levels, they could pass out and quietly slide under water during this timeframe. The same goes for someone who has over-exerted themselves in the ocean, say while spear fishing or of course, taking a multiple-wave hold down.

Fortunately, there are two solutions to this issue. First, once an over-exerted swimmer or breath holder gets to the edge of the pool or the surface, they should get completely out of the water and sit on the pool deck, the deck of a SUP or a jet ski, for the next 60 seconds. This will prevent them from falling or sliding into the water if they faint.

“Parents, swim partners, lifeguards, swim coaches, pools and aquatic organizations should integrate this information into their rules, guidelines, and training,” Merritt said. “Our goal is to save lives and prevent people from drowning quietly while everyone around them thinks they’re fine.”

The second path, which should be used in conjunction with the first, is for all aquatic enthusiasts to take a pulmonary training program like VitalityPro’s Pulm-Max. It has shown the ability to improve hypoxia as well as pulmonary performance. Once again, pulmonary training should not replace or negate the first solution.

VitalityPro’s research also showed that participants in land-based sports like football and basketball suffer from hypoxia, particularly those with greater body mass. Oxygen deprivation reduces performance, limits playing time and increases the risk of injury. There is also a strong likelihood that hypoxia plays a greater role in conditions like CTE than previously thought, although more research is needed. “From a coaching and training perspective, pulmonary training leads to the greatest improvement in any athlete’s overall performance yet it’s something that not many people do,” said Brandon Rager, Director of Training at VitalityPro.

VitalityPro’s New Hypoxia Research Data

VitalityPro Hypoxia Research Helps Reduce Drowning Deaths

Traditional Thinking

Traditional Hypoxia Thinking

This graph shows the 3 major trends of hypoxia from “breathholding” and “breath exhaustion” noted from VitalityPro’s collective research.

#1. Represents the classic model noted for years with a slow predictable pattern with plenty of time to recognize signs and symptoms and quick recovery (without worsening hypoxia) shortly after breathing resumes. Our red line extension of this #1 curve is from our research and represents a variant group of individuals who experience delayed hypoxia after resuming normal breathing and talking, etc

I wish our research showed that hypoxia is as simple and predictable as the classic black line of #1, but our research revealed that the majority of our participants followed the less predictable and more dangerous patterns of #2 and 3 with a delayed hypoxia even after normal breathing resumed. Note the red hypoxia lines of all 3 types.

We feel that the red lines of delayed hypoxia on this graph may explain a large sum of the mystery of shallow water syncope and its uneven distribution of victim’s at either end of pool.

Take home point: The swimmer is not necessarily safe when they are at the edge of the pool and talking to you. Actually this is when the most dangerous 50-60 secs of hypoxia can occur for swimmers who breathhold or over exert there breath.

How to Reduce Drowning Deaths:

1) Sit completely on pooldeck when finished or resting from laps.

Once a breath hold or out of breath swimmer gets to the edge of the pool that swimmer should get out of the pool sitting completely on the pool deck for the next 60 seconds. Parents, swim partners, lifeguards, swim coaches, pools and Aquatic organizations should integrate this information into their rules, guidelines and training. All Aquatic related personnel should not assume that the swimmer is okay just because they have come up and are breathing and talking to you. Once again, the next 60 secs could be when the swimmer stops talking and passes out, quietly drowns while no one is looking.

2) VitalityPro has shown that this hypoxia can be corrected, either partially or completely, through the Pulm-Max pulmonary training program.

Solution #2) should never replace or negate Solution #1)

Additionally, VitalityPro’s research revealed similar hypoxia in most high performing terrestrial athletes, too. Especially affected athletes were larger athletes of size regulated sports such as football and basketball. This hypoxic trend appears to account for a large role in the limitation of performance, limitation of time of play and injuries for such athletes. I.e. The lungs and pulmonary performance is the low lying fruit of most athletes.

The Pulm-Max pulmonary training once again has shown ability to improve and correct this in terrestrial athletes leading to improved performance capacity.

* Word of caution: Buying and using various breathing tools alone should not be confused to be or take the place of a true pulmonary training program.

This entry was posted in Aquatics Safety, Drowning Awareness, Hypoxia, News, Performance, Pulmonary, Recovery, Reduce Drowning Deaths, Shallow Water Blackout, VitalityPro Research, Water Safety and tagged , , , , , .