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Study

USA Triathlon views the safety of our members as a core imperative. Event-related fatalities have captured the attention of our community, raising safety concerns among athletes, family members and other supporters, event organizers, sponsors, community leaders, and the medical community. We have conducted a careful review of the collective experience with fatalities at USA Triathlon-sanctioned events from 2003 through 2011. Our objectives were to attempt to bring clarity, identify potential patterns and underlying causes, and investigate opportunities to make any future improvements in event safety.

Click here to view a PDF file of the USA Triathlon Fatality Incidents Study.

Here at USA Triathlon, we take great pride in hearing and sharing the stories of members who have made positive lifestyle changes thanks to participation in our sport. These inspirational stories run the gamut. From significant weight loss to overcoming disease to coping with tragedy to achieving a personal best or helping others find a path into the sport — everyone has a reason for doing that first triathlon.

No matter what inspired you to become a triathlete, you’re responsible for showing up at the starting line fully prepared for the challenge ahead of you. Safety in the sport is not just the responsibility of the National Governing Body, sanctioned events and race directors, who are subject to the scrutiny of USA Triathlon’s rigorous sanctioning process and expected to uphold the best safety protocols.

The concept of shared responsibility is one that USA Triathlon, its sanctioned event race directors and all participants should embrace. According to the USA Triathlon Fatality Incidents Study, a framework of shared responsibility is part of the path forward in keeping participants safe. The study was conducted by a five-member review panel that included three physicians and two race directors with broad experience in triathlon.

“We value the safety of all multisport participants, and it is crucial for athletes, race directors and all members of USA Triathlon’s community to make safety at events a priority,” said USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach. “The shared responsibility philosophy ensures the sport’s viability for years to come, outlining the steps each person or group can take to make each event a success.”

SBR

Shared Responsibility: Athletes

Show up for the race healthy, fit and prepared

  • Visit your doctor for a physical examination with an emphasis on heart health before participating.
  • Consult with your doctor about any warning signs during training such as chest pain/discomfort, shortness of breath, light-headedness or blacking out.
  • Your health, fitness level and preparation should guide your selection of an appropriate race or event.
  • Your race plan should be consistent with your health, fitness level, and preparation.
  • Choose an event because it places an emphasis on athlete safety, and is sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
  • Practice and prepare for open water swim venues. Race day should not be your first exposure to open water swimming.
  • Thoroughly review the race’s website and all pre-race communications so you are knowledgeable on the timetable for race day arrival and preparations.
  • Utilize all checklists and information from the event, USA Triathlon and your coach to mentally prepare for the competition.
  • Make certain your equipment is safe and working properly. Be sure your wetsuit fits properly. Get your bike checked before the event.
  • During the event, STOP at the first sign of a medical problem such as chest pain/discomfort, breathing difficulties, light-headedness or unusually high heart rate and seek medical attention. 
  • During the event, tend to a fellow athlete who has a medical problem.
  • Learn CPR and be prepared to use those skills when needed. Ask your family and other supporters to do the same.

Shared Responsibility: Race Directors

Design, plan and conduct the event with athlete safety as a foremost priority

  • The approved safety plan should account for unique features of an event’s location, weather and participants.
  • A mandatory pre-race safety briefing is recommended during which athletes are provided information about the safety plan and reminded about their responsibilities for race safety.
  • Provide up-to-date race information to all participants, volunteers and support personnel. Provide spectator information on your website so logistics and other stress inducing details are readily available.
  • Design and plan the event to include warm-up opportunities, especially the swim portion.
  • Sanction your event with USA Triathlon and follow all rules, guidelines and policies.

Shared Responsibility: USA Triathlon

Here’s what your National Governing Body is doing:

  • Distributing information about the current review to USA Triathlon members, race directors, coaches and officials and to the wider triathlon community through its entire communications platform.
  • Developing an educational series of webinars on safety topics.
  • Developing a set of Best Practices tools for athletes and event directors, including: safety considerations for swim course design; race-day communications for emergency medical responses; guidelines for athlete preparedness for races; pre-race safety checklist for athletes
  • Reviewing new relevant scientific information and data/recommendations from other National Governing Bodies. Reviewing feedback from all constituents.
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