Shallow Water Blackout

Shallow Water Blackout DVD

Shallow water blackout, SWB, results from an insufficient amount of carbon
dioxide to activate the body's natural impulse to breathe. Swimmers who Shallow Water Blackout
practice prolonged underwater breath-holding are particularly at risk of SWB. Prior to submersion, swimmers blow off an excessive amount of carbon dioxide through voluntary hyperventilation (intentional quick breaths in and out) or involuntary hyperventilation (strenuous exercise, excitement, anxiety). When the oxygen level in the blood runs low before the carbon dioxide level rises to the point that triggers the breathing reflex, the swimmer loses consciousness. The swimmer never actually feels as though a breath is needed. Once submerged underwater, the swimmer is hidden from the view of lifeguards by surface glare and ripples/waves on the surface. A series of events is then triggered, including the inhalation of water, possible convulsions and ultimately cardiac arrest and death. Additional information is available on our Shallow Water Blackout DVD.

Shallow Water Blackout - Common Victims

Anyone who practices competitive, repetitive underwater breath-holding is at risk for Shallow Water Blackout. A recent series of deaths of healthy, athletic males, ages 15-26 years, all of whom were capable to strong swimmers, but yet who died in shallow water often near the side of the pool, suggests that common victims of Shallow Water Blackout tend to be male swimmers who engage in underwater breath-holding contests for time or distance. However, it is important to note that gender does not play a significant role in SWB other than to suggest that males may practice this dangerously competitive activity more than females.

Shallow Water Blackout - Surprising Statistics!

ASRG SWB study
SWB survivors and victims
Shallow Water Blackout Survey Responses

Want to know more?

Sanjay Gupta, M.D., CNN, August 2012
Pool Management Group, 2012
Athletic Business Newswire, August 2011
American Red Cross Advisory Council, June 2009
Inside Edition, July 13, 2007
Aquatics International - Dying for Air, Walter Griffiths, M.D. and Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., 2005
Mount Nittany Health, Jeffrey Ratner, M.D., 2006
United Educators Risk Research Bulletin, June 2005
The Combat Edge, Maj James Law, July 2003
YMCA SCUBA, Dr. Duke Scott, 1999
ASCA Online, Bruce Wigo, 1999
Lifesaving Society, BC, Shallow Water Blackout Information Bulletin
Jonathan J. Proce Foundation

Recent Cases in the News...

Dallas, ages 6 & 7
New York, age 21
Charlotte, teenager

Shallow Water Blackout Prevention

Check out Shallow Water Blackout Prevention Non-Profit Organization's new website.

Shallow Water Blackout Online Tracking...

Participate in Aquatic Safety Research Group's efforts to track incidents of Shallow Water Blackout.

Brand New ABC for SWB!

All new guideline to help show what activities can be safer if practiced properly and which activities are high risk and potentially deadly. This is not definitive across all situations - it is only a guideline to help illustrate breath-holding activities that could lead to Shallow Water Blackout.

A basic guidelin for Shallow Water Blackout



As seen on
Inside Edition