We recently heard about the early death of Dale Oen, a Norwegian swimming world champion, at the age of 26. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/01/sport/olympics-swimming-alexander-dale-oen-death/index.html I understand that swimming is among the most healthiest sports, and there are other recent cases of great athletes affected by sudden death, for instance in soccer. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/05/sports/soccer/05iht-SOCCER05.html Beyond the specifics of each case, which are of course unique, is there anything to be said about why could this happen, that highly trained and successful young athletes had these terrible accidents? Shouldn't athletes be safe from these fatal problems, since their training and lifestyle is so well balanced? I am curious to know your views from a paleo perspective on this issue...
Is continually pushing your body to its extreme limits (which is what elite athletes do) really good for you physically?
Is the physical training required so elite athletes can perform their feats healthy or harmful over the long run.
While I'm sure the typical caveman faced plenty of physical stress and challenges, was it anywhere near the level that a modern elite athlete subjects themselves? My guess is no.
Don't forget about the woman who ran a marathon to raise money for a charity and then collapsed and died near the end of the race just a few days ago: http://news.yahoo.com/marathon-runners-death-inspires-1m-donations-143816055--spt.html.
First of all, I have a much greater appreciation for life and how fragile it is. But frankly, these tragic deaths scare me. These people were young, healthy and in the prime of their lives and they went from 60 to 0 just like that. And I'm sitting here thinking, "I'm doing everything I can to be as healthy as possible and yet my body can still decide to shut down if it wants to." Well, shit.
So, I guess the answer is no: athletes are not safe from spontaneous cardiac arrests. No one is. Notice at the end of the link I posted that no one knows why that woman collapsed and died. She's climbed Mount freakin' Kilimanjaro. She was invincible. There's a lesson to be learned here and it has nothing to do with what you eat or how much you exercise. Never take your life for granted. Savor each moment. And tell the ones you love that you love them every single goddamn day.
Troponin levels are known to be higher in athletes post-marathon run than in those that have just suffered a myocardial infarction (i.e. a heart attack). This is a protein released by the heart as it works (or breaks down, has "an event", etc).
To me, this doesn't mean "stop running!", rather this begs the question of what "endurance" really means. I think for most people, aiming towards HIIT (e.g. Fartlek training for runners), can deliver better overall health than directly training the body to survive a 26.2 mile run.
Having said that, I'd love to run one, and only one, marathon in my life -- there is something to be said for the sense of accomplishment of completing that event.
THere is also always the possibility of doping. The case of the 48 Italian soccer players who mysteriously have come down with ALS... the Tour de France cyclist who died from amphetamine use... there is a lot going on in professional sports that isn't squeaky clean, and believe me, it is risky. I just translated an article for a magazine about gene doping, in which they'd use gene therapy (genetic material delivered by a neutralized virus) to introduce genes into the body, which then cause cells to express proteins (in this case EPO) that they normally wouldn't. It's undetectable. As far as we know it's not being widely used, but.. Here's an excerpt about how scary that might be:
Although EPO is naturally produced by the kidneys, gene doping would introduce the gene into muscle cells. The protein expressed in the muscles might occasionally have a slightly different configuration than the one expressed in the kidney. “This caused an immune reaction in experiments using monkeys,” adds Rusconi. “Antibodies neutralized the new protein, but also the body’s naturally produced endogenous EPO. This resulted in very severe anemia, which was irreversible and fatal.” In short, it caused the opposite of the desired effect – with disastrous consequences.
In short, whenever I hear of a young professional athlete dying too soon, I unfortunately don't exclude the possiblity that it wasn't of "natural" causes.
In short, Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen to anyone, regardless of diet. Typically these events are caused by undiagnosed electrical anomalies such as Long QT Syndrome. All sorts of things can trigger an SCA in those with Long QT, including a sudden scare, noise, or jumping into cold water. You can be very healthy a by all measures and still suffer an SCA.
One of my co-workers was just diagnosed in his early 60's with a congenital "hole in the heart" (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/holes/). His wife told me that he never knew he had this. His symptoms were dizziness, feet/neck swelling, fatigue, and heart palpitations. Early on, he had heart tests, but nothing turned up. Finally, they had what is called a "bubble test," and that showed a small opening. He had a simple nearly out-patient procedure, and all the symptoms went away. The doctors said he probably would have collapsed/died eventually if he had tried anything strenuous. They also said many people have this disorder but never know about it. You can have it from birth and it simply doesn't show up unless you have this more intensive search or identify the problems.
Interestingly, I had a student last week that almost went into cardiac arrest after eating a big chocolate bar and a large caffeinated soft drink. He had this condition too, and will also be having the simple closure procedure.
Paul Jaminet speaks on this: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=3474. Chronic exercise causes oxidative stress, shitty diets contribute to and compound that stress. I'm not saying all of these people had poor diets, but most endurance athletes are known to binge on carbs, often in the form of wheat and other junk.
I am curious to know your views from a paleo perspective on this issue
There is nothing "Paleo" at all about top level sports, it's pushing the body to the extreme. It's neither healthy or normal or "paleo". Athletes are willing to take the risk for financial gain or glory.
Push anything to the edge and you will get greater output levels, but with the increased chance of it breaking: Human bodies, F1 cars, overclocked pc's, whatever.
Hey this is a great question. I have what is called an Athletic Heart Syndrome, and it is where the right ventricle (I think) of your heart is enlarged. It is common in endurance athletes. I grew up in both soccer and swimming at a highly competitive level, and have been compulsively exercising more or less since I was 11. My resting pulse is between 42 and 48 depending on the types of activities I've been doing.
I do get worried that I may just keel over and die one day after a workout. As far as I know, the athletes that typically die suddenly to which you are referring had AHS. For some reason this results in SUD (sudden unexpected death) after intense exertion.
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