The Games We Play: From Open Water Swimming to Croquet

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And they’re off:
the start of the 32K Traversee

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.

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The start of the Lac St. Jean
10 K FINA event

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.

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The infirmary at Traversee Headquarters.







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.

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One of the Medical Boats accompanying
the swimmers as they make the 32K crossing

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

The 59th Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean

lac st jeanIt started off a bit rocky, with an impatient Canadian border guard at Jean Lesage international airport in Quebec City questioning why I, an American doctor, would be working and taking care of patients in Canada; but things are decidedly looking up now that I have made it over that speed bump and down the road to Roberval, Quebec.

My biggest problem now is getting WiFi access.  Thank God for Tim Horton’s!!  My hotel can’t get me WiFi, other places in town that proclaim free WiFi don’t deliver.  I grabbed a coffee at Tim’s (avoiding the donuts; on the road, sitting in planes and cars, I don’t need those tasty calories) and, voila!  Internet access.

So, lest anyone think I’ve been remiss in communicating over the blog, on Twitter @cjsmonline, or on the Facebook page (, I have simply been unable to do so.

And one more thought about Tim Horton’s before I turn to the swimming. Many readers will know this, but some will not:  the donut chain was founded by a revered former NHL player, Mr. Tim Horton himself.

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The obstacle the swimmers face: Lac St. Jean

I’m here as a FINA medical delegate to supervise the medical set-up and the doping control of two swimming events that will take place on Lac St. Jean–next to Roberval, Quebec, Canada (2.5 hours north of Quebec City)–tomorrow and Saturday.

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Lakeside plaque commemorating Jacques Amyot, first to make the Lac St. Jean crossing.





The 32 km Traversee, to take place on Saturday, promises to be especially interesting.  To put this in context, the distance is just a bit shorter than the English channel crossing, and the water temperatures in the middle of the lake will drop below 20 degrees C.

The medical tent is set up to deal with hypothermia, I can assure you of that!

I will have more to post (pending access to Tim Horton’s……oops, WiFi) when the events have taken place. In the mean time, if anyone in the blogosphere has interesting experiences or medical literature to share on the coverage of long-distance swimming events, I look forward to hearing from you in the ‘Comments’ here or on Twitter @cjsmonline.

Nadal’s Knees


Rafael Nadal, invincible on clay, just might be beaten by this man in table tennis (Portuguese Table Tennis Coach Afonso Vilela)

What a great week it has been at the French Open in Paris.  As I write, I see that Serena Williams has just closed out Maria Sharapova in straight sets to regain the title she last held 11 years ago in 2002.  The men’s final is set for tomorrow, with the incomparable Rafael Nadal facing his Spanish countryman David Ferrer after outlasting Novak Djokovic in an epic five-set semi-final match.

Like many of this blog’s readers, I have been amazed and entertained by men’s tennis over the last decade.  It truly is a golden era for the sport, with Federer and Nadal and Djokovic and Murray each seeming to outdo the other in feats of tennis heroics.  Just yesterday Nadal made an amazing between the legs shot in the fifth set, but is that perhaps outdone by the amazing forehand Djoko ripped off Federer to save match point in the 2011 U.S. Open (going on then to win the semi-final)?

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