July 27, 2013
The swimmers have entered the 19 C water and have begun their 6+ hour journey to Roberval: the Traversee of Lac St. Jean, a FINA 32km open water swim has begun.
I last wrote a post about the FINA World Cup 10km event that took place two days ago at the same venue. The organizational structure, medical facilities, and WADA doping control stations are the same for the 32km Traversee.
The 10km race was an exciting finish, and more importantly from the viewpoint of a sports medicine clinician, the event was safe. By that I mean that the facilities and staff were well organized, and there were no major injuries to the athletes. As expected, given the cold waters of the racing venue, a couple of swimmers were treated for mild hypothermia, but no one required anything more than passive warming and supportive care.
Hypothermia (body temperature < 35 C) can be a concern for any athlete (coach, athletic trainer, or physician) performing in an outdoor venue, but it is a special risk for open water swimmers. FINA mandates that swims take place on courses with event-day water temperatures in a range from 16 to 31 C. At the higher end of that range, swimmers may produce more heat than can be easily dissipated through convection and conduction, and may be at risk of hyperthermia. Exertional Heat Illness is, of course, another environmental hazard sports medicine clinicians must be concerned with. It is thought to have been one of the contributing causes to the worst outcome one can conceive in the field of sports medicine: the death of an open water swimmer, Fran Crippen, occurred at a FINA event in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.
At this venue in Lac St. Jean, we have the opposite concern. The early morning temperature on race day Thursday was 18 C, and I was happy to see the temperature climbed one more degree by race time. The swimmers’ opinions of those conditions ranged from neutral to notable (cold!), but, as I said, only two swimmers needed attention. The other 15 emerged from the water with their biggest concerns ranging from 1) washing the lanolin off of their bodies to 2) producing urine for doping control. Read more of this post