Sunday, March 29, 2009

Health risks, public and private

Today's front page at USA Today carries a story about the elevated risk of dying of a heart problem during a triathlon vs. a marathon (but not, oddly enough, in comparison to walking on city streets).

A study found the casualty rate is about 15 per 1 million participants, way higher than marathons (4 to 8 per million). The raw numbers are similar to the rate - 13 dead swimmers out of 922,810 (and one dead biker!) over a roughly 2.5-year period.

The story goes into detail, which is cool, and offers some sound advice for people thinking about doing a triathlon (get the OK from the doctor, do some open water swims, wear a wetsuit if the water's too cold and make sure race staff are prepared for emergencies).

But although it acknowledges the rising popularity of triathlons, the story is silent on the health benefits enjoyed by the 921,996 people who weren't killed in competition. And it says nothing about the 4,749 pedestrians killed in 2003 alone, a number the federal government provided me within about 30 seconds of my doing a Google search. If that number held up, you'd be looking at, what? Ten thousand dead pedestrians in the same period as 14 dead triathletes?

Granted, the study is new, so its news. But still.

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