Near-Tragedy in Illinois Reminds Coaches of Dangers of Hypoxic Training

  70 Braden Keith | February 19th, 2013 | Club, News, a local news station in the Chicago area, is reporting of a near-tragedy at Peoria’s Notre Dame High School that was averted by one swimmer’s quick thinking.

Read the full report here.

16-year old Alex Bousky was trying to break a breath-holding record, and after 75 yards he passed out and suffered a seizure at the bottom of the pool. After a teammate noticed his absence, 17-year old Charlie Cain jumped into the water and pulled his teammate to safety. The team and the coach then took all appropriate actions, turned him onto his side, and called an ambulance.

“I went over to make sure he was okay, I didn’t expect to find him,” said Cain to Cinenewsnow. “He was on the bottom of the pool. I brought him up and over the wall and our coach got down to pull him out. All the guys were doing stuff for him, we opened the doors up and we got him on his side. One of the guys found someone to call the ambulance.”

Cain was trained by his coach, Steve Frye, in a Red Cross lifesaving class. Even though he was never a lifeguard, he took the class in hopes of furthering his medical career, according to the article.

Cain’s heroics are certainly to be commended, but this is another scary reminder about the dangers of these sorts of underwater challenges.

The dangers posed to swimmers at practice has been highlighted by two recent incidents at two of the country’s major clubs. In one case, a teen at SwimMAC was transported to a hospital by ambulance after nearly drowning. In the other, tragedy was not averted when teenager Louis Lowenthal drowned at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. There are still no firm details (and may never be) about precisely what happened in that situation. Aside from highlighting the risks, both of these cases also highlight the importance of having as many trained lifeguards on deck as possible; both in a formal role, as well as coaches and other athletes who might be observing practices.

While USA Swimming has not issued a specific ban on the type of challenge activity described above, some organizations like the YMCA have issued bans targeting these extreme challenges.  Regardless of bans, such challenge activities continue to occur in our pools.  In order to maintain a safe training environment, coaches are expected to consider the age, distance and recovery time when undertaking any breath control training and never push or challenge their athletes to place themselves in duress or a dangerous situation.  The Safety Training for Swim Coaches course, required of all USA Swimming member coaches, addresses the issue of inappropriate hypoxic training.


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70 Comments on "Near-Tragedy in Illinois Reminds Coaches of Dangers of Hypoxic Training"

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Charlie Cain
Hi, I’m Charlie Cain and my buddy told me that Alex and my story was on here. I just want to clear a few things up. First, Alex did that on his own. One of our coaches told him not to do it, but when he left early Alex did it (our main coach was still there). He made it through one 75 fine. About ten minutes later he tried the second one and passed our on the flip turn. Second, another team mate, Grant Streid, noticed he was missing; not me. I swam over and pulled him up from the 12ft end, but Grant had the presence of mind to actually point out that Alex might be in trouble.… Read more »

Interesting article here. Here is a coach who appears to have been a high level, successful and respected coach (until recently), who has had multiple black-out and convulsion incidents in his practices, in as many years… without raising any concern from the organization. According to this discussion, you would have thought that someone at this level would know how to safely conduct hypoxic training… If even some experienced and successful Div 1 college coaches don’t know where that line is… I am guessing there are many others who do not know either… Maybe we need some parameters after all…–parents-claim-university-of-utah-ignored-coach-s-abusive-behavior-232018663.html

I tend to agree with an above comment that hypoxic training is critical to developing mental toughness, especially in sprinters. We commonly will do 50 meter underwater challenges, but with that being said all of our coaching staff, lifeguards and swimmers have been briefed about the dangers of shallow water blackouts and everyone really watches out for each other during the sets. Often times the danger doesn’t come from a single long hypoxic swim, but from the gradual decrease in tissue oxygen saturation over a series of shorter interval swims. Athletes can suffer a shallow water blackout without any warning, without a strong urge the breathe. As long as all involved are aware of the dangers and the coaches watch… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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