Buying the right wetsuit – A matter of life and death?

Working that tight neoprene – Team Sportextreme Daniel and Philip


Swimrun differ from most aquatic oriented multi-stage sports in that you actually run on land in a wetsuit, in-between the many swim stages and most of the time with your wetsuit fully on.

But how does wearing and running in a tight and mostly black neoprene wetsuit affect your body?

We have previously discussed the science around doing exercise in a wetsuit where studies have found that it will protect you from hypothermia, but might cause overheating. And finding that perfect balance can actually make you go longer and harder than you normally do. But doing exercise in a wetsuit this is not without risk. A recent study by Prado et al (2017, below) has investigated this phenomenon in triathlon, a multi-sport that puts pressure on one’s overall physical capacity. As it turns out there have been 43 event-related deaths from 2003-2011 and the majority occurred during the swim stage. To date there is no clear explanation for the deaths but autopsies report evidence of cardiac abnormalities, hypothesising that immersion pulmonary oedema (IPO, a.k.a swimming induced pulmonary edema, SIPE), can be a potential cause of death. In comparison, the risk of death during a triathlon has been reported to be 1.5 per 100,000 participants compared to only half the risk during a marathon, at 0.8 for every 100,000 participants.

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