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3 Triathletes dead during swimming in 2 weeks in Wisconsin


Two riders died at the Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin triathlon last weekend in Madison. Both athletes died in the floating part of the event, which is still by far the most dangerous part of the triathlon.

On Saturday morning, 38-year-old Todd Mahoney, Madison Fire Department fireman, was not responded to in the water of Lake Monona. About an hour earlier, Michael McCulloch, 61, was also noticeable in the water.

Both men were taken to hospital. McCulloc was about to arrive soon after death, while Mahoney was in critical condition for 2 days before he died on Tuesday. It is believed that both men suffered 'medical events' in the water, and the medical examiner drowns McCulloch's death as a result of a medical event.

A week earlier, a 59-year-old man died in the floating part of the triathlon in the neighboring Jefferson County.

According to a study by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation in 2016, deaths and cardiac arrest are not all rare during triathlons. After reviewing the data of about 9 million triathlon participants over 31 years, they found their statistics:

  • In the triathlon, 1.7 deaths occur per 100,000 people
  • The majority of deaths and cardiac arrest occurred in middle-aged and older men
  • Deaths were first reported among participants
  • In triathlons most deaths came under the floating part
  • A total of 135 sudden deaths, resuscitation and death related to trauma were found.

Between 1985 and 2016, 109 out of 135 events resulted in deaths, 72 in the spa, 20 in the bicycle, and 17 in the run. The death of cycling events is primarily caused by trauma caused by collisions.

Swimming is both the first and the shortest leg of the triathlons (time and distance).

Because of the high risk of fatal patients with undetected cardiovascular disease, experts have suggested better screening for participants.

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