competitive swimming

Children and Shallow Water Blackout

It’s Not Just About Elite Swimmers, Freedivers and People Who Spearfish.  Children Are Equally Susceptible to Shallow Water Blackout Too!

According to the World Health Organization there are over 375,000 drownings annually and it is the third leading cause of all unintentional deaths worldwide. Even though awareness about SWB is increasing, but slowly, experts believe that it remains the cause of more than 50% of all unintentional drownings worldwide and regrettably children are among its many victims. One in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. The Centers for Disease Control reports that for every child who dies from drowning in the U.S., another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.  Most drownings occur is private or public pools.

SWB occurs when the swimmer prolongs their breath holds underwater preceded by hyperventilating, which is the rapid and successive in-take of deep breaths and the expulsion of the air taken in. This is considered intentional hyperventilation and it is usually practiced for a minute or more.  Excessive physical activity such as playing tag or just running around in the yard or playground immediately prior to swimming can have the same physiological effect on the body. This is considered unintentional hyperventilation.

Unless a SWB victim’s pre-swimming activities are known it is almost impossible to assign SWB as the cause; therefore, related drowning victims are simply labeled as accidental.  Although it can happen at any depth many SWB victims drown in water less than 15 feet deep, hence the name.

How Can SWB be prevented:

  • Always monitor a child’s pre-swimming activities and require them to rest before swimming if they have been over-exerting themselves physically.

  • Never let children swim unattended or alone.

  • Never permit them to intentionally hyperventilate when they are swimming.

  • Never permit them to prolong their breath-holds or play breath-holding games when they are swimming.

    Examples:
    • Challenging each other to see who can stay under water the longest or trying to do so themselves.

    • Challenging each other or themselves to swim the most laps underwater.

Remember, Shallow Water Blackout is preventable and we strongly encourage all parents to follow the above guidelines.  

Drowning Deaths of Two Navy SEALs Were Due to Shallow Water Blackout

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Brett Allen Marihugh, 34, of Livonia died April 24,2015.  A group of trainees found him and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Seth Cody Lewis of Queens, New York, at the bottom of a combat training pool. Lewis also died.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Brett Allen Marihugh, 34, of Livonia died April 24,2015.  A group of trainees found him and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Seth Cody Lewis of Queens, New York, at the bottom of a combat training pool. Lewis also died.

The Detroit News has obtained a copy of the results of the Navy's formal investigation of the drownings of two Navy SEAL's at a naval training facility in Virginia this past April.

Please view their informative article about the results of the investigation here

Highlights include:

- Cause of deaths have been ruled as shallow water blackout

- The Navy will now require a lifeguard or first-class swimmer to be present on deck at Naval Special Warfare pools for all conditioning swims other than laps. 

- Signs will be posted in pool facilities expressly prohibiting breath-holding.

- Rear Admiral B.L. Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, has ordered a review of all training requiring breath-holding for compliance with safety standards, and for inspections at pool facilities to ensure the proper posting of emergency-response plans and equipment.

- Technically they were abiding by the "two man rule" so their deaths were not due to misconduct, as ruled by the Navy.

“Our commitment to be the best and push ourselves to ever higher levels of proficiency must be tempered by safety compliance that is often learned from a past tragedy like this one,” Rear Admiral B.L. Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in an Aug. 14 letter accompanying the investigation. “Overconfidence is an ever-present risk factor.”

Our deepest condolences to the families of these true American heroes.  

Even Leisure Pools Need Signage

This month Shallow Water Blackout Prevention is petitioning several pool clubs in the Greater Atlanta area to post signage on their pool decks to warn patrons about the dangers of prolonged underwater breath-holding.

A great friend sent us this photo of a sign that was recently posted at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, Ga.  We applaud the folks at this club for setting the standard in pool safety.  

photo courtesy of Carolyn Wills

photo courtesy of Carolyn Wills

We ask that all of our friends and followers consider petitioning YOUR area pool clubs to do the same.  If you would like an official letter request sent from our organization to a club or group in your area, please email your requests to [email protected] 

Have you seen a SWB warning sign at your pool?
Snap a photo!
Email to [email protected]