Telling your medical history to your doctor can reveal up to 78 percent of the conditions that could affect your athletic performance

By Nina Beltran | Photo by Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

It’s good to know that lately most of my triathlete friends are seeking their doctor’s advice before doing extensive training or racing. Not only do I appreciate their regular visits to the clinic, which leads to some triathlon talk on the side, but it also surprised me that they actually wanted to be informed about the health risks involved. Most important of all, being well-informed helps them stay on top of things.

If you haven’t gotten yourself checked or you don’t think you need to be, maybe this would change your mind:

In a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was stated that triathlons are twice as deadly as marathons. The occurrence of one death per 76,000 participants should not be taken lightly. In the Philippines, reported cases include a few that occurred in CamSur and Cebu.

Triathletes generally train for months and therefore deem themselves physically fit enough to join a triathlon. But why are there a number of athletes who die from these races?

In a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was stated that triathlons are twice as deadly as marathons

Some triathletes fear the open-water swim due to the possibility of drowning. Swimming has proven to be the deadliest leg. Data reviewed from a study by USA Triathlon (USAT) from 2003 to 2011 reported 43 fatalities. Five were from cycling crash trauma. The remaining 38 deaths listed 30 that happened during the swim, three during the bike, three during the run, and two after completion of the race—all from cardio-pulmonary causes. The findings prove that being a physically fit triathlete does not guarantee exemption from experiencing a life-threatening cardiac episode.

Would you like to know if you have these risks? Would you risk not knowing? What would you do if you’re worried you’re going to be that one in the 76,000 athletes? The American Heart Association (AHA) advises all endurance athletes to have pre-participation screening and assessment of heart disease. Those age-groupers 40 and up have the highest incidence of mortality, and USAT encourages them to have cardio- pulmonary clearance prior to racing.

Data reviewed from a study by USA Triathlon (USAT) from 2003 to 2011 reported 43 fatalities. Five were from cycling crash trauma. The remaining 38 deaths listed 30 that happened during the swim, three during the bike, three during the run, and two after completion of the race—all from cardio-pulmonary causes

Go See Your Doctor

An annual exam is intended to help athletes accomplish definitive care measures to support training in order for it to be effective as well as a measure to prevent any untoward event. With testing, your doctor will be able to identify underlying medical concerns, especially cardiac abnormalities that can lead to heart attack. It may be best if your primary care physician is also into sports so that he or she can understand your health goals. When your physician asks about your medical history, this information can reveal 64 to 78 percent of the conditions that could affect your athletic performance.

Standard Tests

The screening test standards recommended by AHA include standard cardiovascular screening, aside from physical examination, blood work-ups, ECG, X-ray, 2D echocardiogram, and stress testing. These are just some basic diagnostic tools doctors use to better assess your cardiac status in order to screen for cardiovascular risk factors. Other specialized tests such as lactate testing and cardiopulmonary exercise testing may sometimes be employed under strict doctor supervision to assess your current level of fitness and effectively guide your training.

Remember, informing yourself is protecting yourself.