Saturday, October 23, 2010

Swimming in hot water.............Fran Crippen dies

THIS happened today.  A swimmer, Fran Crippen, died while swimming in the United Arab Emirates.
Here's the AP opening paragraph:
"Fran Crippen, a medal-winning open-water swimmer on the U.S. national team, told his coach he wasn’t feeling well late in a race before he died in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday."
"The 26-year-old from a family of prominent swimmers in suburban Philadelphia was competing in the FINA Open Water 10-kilometer World Cup in Fujairah, south of Dubai, but failed to finish and was found in the water two hours later, according to Swimming World."

He wasn't feeling well, did they discuss his stopping? Did he insist he go on? nothing said about's more from the article:

"In addition to Crippen, Maglione said three other swimmers - two U.S. women and one Brazilian - were taken to a hospital.  The magazine said the water temperature was in the mid- to high-80s, and several swimmers were treated for heat exhaustion after the race. “They are not in any kind of problem,” he said."
They weren't in any kind of problem but were taken to the hospital?
  And, more:

"Competitors all described the conditions as unusually hot, but would not comment about Crippen’s death.  “These are very hot conditions for swimming,” said Thomas Lurz of Germany, who won the men’s race.  Evgeny Drattsev of Russia, who came in second, admitted he had never competed in such warm conditions before.  “The water was really hot and it was a kind of new experience for me here,” he said.
Crippen’s death has raised the possibility that a 15-kilometer open-water grand prix that is supposed to be held at the same venue Wednesday could be canceled."  Ya THINK?

Z: I'm not one to think all has to be called off, or a sport should be eliminated from competition, because of one awful accident, but this terrible death's kind of haunting to me.  The fellow said he didn't feel well, and his body was found two hours later in the water?   Don't they at least have helicopters or something hovering above open-water swimmers?  Meanwhile, a terrific, talented 26 yr old kid's dead.  This breaks my heart.
What do YOU think of the details of this story??


sue said...

Z - This is tragic, and I think you are right that questions should be raised.

The hot water, for one. Also, like you, I wondered about the body being found two hours later, which leads me to believe that the race wasn't well monitored.

I often wonder about athletic events and think that deaths could be prevented.

Anonymous said...


It's sad, tragic, and preventable! When Fran told his coach he wasn't feeling well, why was he allowed to continue?

Anonymous said...

I think if the weather's inclement they either should postpone the race or shorten it.

If he said he didn't feel well, he should've been made to pull out. Athletes who have trained for months, maybe years won't likely pull out on their own.

But, if they have a coach and advise him that they don't feel well, he has to discern if the athlete should participate. Most athletes would say nothing unless they really are laboring.

It's obvious to me, the race should've been postponed or shortened, given the conditions. One young man died and others were negatively affected and sent to the hospital.

This was not an aberration, this was too much of a risk given the conditions.

Very sad.


sue said...

Pris - This seems to happen all too often in sports. The right amount of attention is not given to the athlete, and a life is lost.

If an athlete is in prime condition, then a red light should go on when he or she says that they aren't feeling well. Especially when they are in an environment that they are not accustomed to - such as UAE.

Z said...

thanks for the comments.
I SO agree with you both, and with anonymous...

an athlete like Fran Crippen knows when he's REALLY not feeling well; he'd have not mentioned it if he wasn't looking for a 'nudge' out of there..probably felt funny disqualifying himself and was looking for support...

I'm so not for stopping a whole sport over one disaster BUT, this story really caught my eye and felt like blatant disinterest in the atheletes' conditions...
what's that jerk mean they went to the hospital for nothing wrong,...let's face it, that's what he said!

It's VERY VERY sad, yes, Pris. Heartbreaking.

sue said...

'I'm so not for stopping a whole sport over one disaster'

Of course, Z, that can't be done.
There are so many examples of athletes dying - sometimes it's no one's fault, and sometimes it could be prevented.

But a life is lost, and that's what is important - more than the sport itself.

Anonymous said...

Part of living is the risk of dying —something that happens to all of us in time. I am amazed how people assume that serving in the military is a safe endeavor so long as we aren’t at war. More servicemen die in training related incidents than most people realize. The military is a very dangerous environment; people who join the military know that. If they don’t know that, they have no business being in the military. It is the same with sports. Most sports are dangerous, for no other reason than the cumulative effects of punishing your body. I don’t know of any professional football player who does have ruined knees, degenerating hips, or pain in the shoulder … but people die on the football field and we presume that athletes understand the risks when they sign up to play. Recently, a Great White Shark killed a man 100 yards off the beach in California —and here this young man was swimming a race in the open ocean. Did he not imagine there was danger from sharks —creatures that eat other creatures for a living? Did he not realize that competing in sports in the world’s cat box was risky? Has he never run in to a school of jellyfish?

I agree it is a tragic incident; it has always been so. Let us acknowledge that the young man (almost 30 years old) was doing what he loved to do; let us imagine he knew the risks.

Z said...

Mustang, I agree, he knew the risks but it looks like swimming in that hot water was just plain STUPID and many got ill enough to go to the hospital.
I'm all over what you're saying...we can't stop football because one poor kid has a heart problem and dies, and there are risks of spinal cord injuries and everybody knows that yet they play ...

But this just struck me as plain ODD...swimming in water so hot people complained, a swimmer whose body wasn't found for two hours when you'd THINK there are helicopters over the swimmers just to make sure all's okay...?
Anyway, that's what I thought.

Anonymous said...

I find this tragic but understandable. There have been cases of people dying in half-marathons and marathons. Usually it's not the elite athletes, but a few years ago an all-American cross country runner dyed in the NYC Marathon. I think part of the appeal of sports is seeing if you can do things people doubted were possible.

There is a 135 mile foot race through Death Valley during the middle of summer--certainly more dangerous than a marathon in temperatures in the 70s. I know if sounds like a bad idea, but at the same time it also sounds like a great idea.

I would imagine you'd have had a hard time talking Fran Crippen out of giving his best effort due to not feeling well. It reminds me of the NBA Finals when Michael Jordan was suffering from the flu or food poisoning or something and then went out there and lit of the Jazz.

I did my first open water swim event about a month ago, so the taking two hours to find him makes me a bit nervous. In that one the water was just over 60 degrees so it was the cold, not the heat that worried me. I thought the support there was good though...losts of boats on the course to monitor everyone.


Brooke said...

The water temp was in the mid 80's?!? How frickin' hot was the land/air temp?

This was just bad from the get-go; very sad.

Z said...

tio, the support is the part we find NOT understandable....All of us mentioned how hard it would be for Crippen to bow out after he's trained, etc.

The news this morning is that he had a heart attack...whether it was the heat or exhaustion, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

I'll let you know if I hear anything about this from my swimming people.

There are some parallels with the concussions we've been seeing in football--trying to balance safety with competitive drive.


Chuck said...

Z, in response to your question from my blog.

I have been following this to see what they would find out. It has been fascinating.

Your question prompted some research. I had some suspicions on what it could be but was not certain.

Without knowing a lot of details, here are some possibilities: (realize I am not an expert on any of this, these are just my educated guesses)

-a condition called rhabdomyolysis. This is when protein is released from muscle breakdown. This is what can cause medical problems for elderly people when they fall and lie on the floor for a day or two. It releases the proteins into the blood stream. Proteins are large molecules and having an excessive amount of them in the blood stream
causes problems. One of the things we see as a result of this is kidney failure. I did see some information that says that in extreme cases it can cause a heart attack.

-Malignant hyperthermia. This is a condition in which the body temperature goes dangerously high (hyperthermia). It is typically seen after anesthesia and there is a thought that it has a genetic predisposition. I did see where it can be induced by exercise in hot conditions. One of the results of this can be dysrthmias or an irregular heart beat. This can result in heart failure.

-I did see circumstances in which people can have both conditions at once. The hyperthermia can make the rhabdomyolysis worse.

Most likely he had a dysrythmia (his heart went into a fatal irregular heart beat) and he arrested.

Often in cases like this though you guess at a cause, they do an autopsy, and it turns out you are completely wrong.

Bottom line is this was a very tragic and, in my mind likely unnecessary, death. My thoughts go out to his family and teammates.

Z said...

tio, that's exactly right, definite parallels. Let us know.

Chuck, thanks......I really appreciate your having looked into this for us. It's just such a shame and it hurts me so much that he SAID he felt lousy and then keeps swimming and nobody was around to the point where it was two hours later that they found his body! It's a terrible tragedy.
I suppose the heat does different things to different individuals...and I suppose that people swim in that heat all the time if they're FROM those hot could see a German complained that it was too hot for him, and Germans never swim in that heat because they don't usually get that heat in that country, at least not to train.

That "I don't feel good" line haunts me for Fran Crippen.

Luda said...

It’s a tragedy that Fran Crippen passed away! Honor his memory by contributing to his memorial site