The recent  death of swimmer Fran Crippen, former All-American at the University of  Virginia, during a 10- kilometer open water race at Dubai is not surprising considering that water temperatures at the time were in the mid to high 80s.

       Based on my published studies (The Lancet) of Sy Mah, holder of the Guinness Book of Records for having completed 524 marathons; Mary  Hanudel, 1987 U.S. ultramarathoner of the year;  and Lorna Michael, who completed a 2,900 mile staged race across America in 1993, all of whom showed significant magnesium deficiencies, I believe there is a very strong case for a magnesium deficit playing a major role in this athlete’s death.

       If only Crippen and his coach had been aware of the importance of ensuring that all athletes maintain sufficient magnesium intake during training and competition, particularly in the heat.

       Heat stroke, triggered by exertion, is deadly; the mortality rate is at least 50 percent. As an internist in private practice, I was once called to the emergency room to treat a runner who collapsed during a 10-kilometer race with a temperature of 108 degrees, extreme agitation, and impending shock. How fortunate I was that my patient was on land and arrived to the emergency room in time.  

       One of the earliest symptoms of impending heat stroke is progressive extraordinary fatigue. When an award -winning athlete who has  traveled  half way around the world to compete, in desperation tells his coach during the race that he is " tired " the consequences of ignoring this symptom can be fatal, particularly when swimming.


       There may be thousands of people drowning every year because of unrecognized  magnesium deficiencies while in water of various temperatures, but unfortunately there is no way to prove it. 


       Foods that raise magnesium levels are nuts; legumes (beans); dark, leafy vegetables; dried fruit; and whole grains. These should be taken by those who are sedentary as well. Prevention of deficiencies can also be acquired by taking supplemental magnesium. A total of 6 to 8 milligrams of magnesium citrate (for example) per kilogram of body weight  per day, divided into morning and evening doses, should be sufficient for most—provided there is adequate renal function. It is important, however, to avoid excessive calcium intake, which will offset the magnesium supplement’s effects.


William J. Rowe M.D.
The Daily Progress
Charlottesville, Virginia
Nov. 26, 2010



















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