Lately, I’ve been having a serious case of déjà vu,that uncanny, eerie feeling that you’ve been there before.
It happened as I was editing this month’s important
feature story about shallow water blackout
and the resulting deaths that the phenomenon continues to
See if this sounds familiar: A dangerous situation, which the
industry has long known about, but largely ignored or failed to
address, causes sporadic deaths over the years. Then, in the space
of a short time, several horrific deaths happen. A mother of one of
the victims just happens to have a relationship to a powerful
politician. Still grieving, she starts a campaign to address the
apparent industry oversight to this deadly situation through
By now, you can see where this is going. And if it sounds just like
the scenario that led up to the Virginia Graeme Pool and Spa Safety
Act, that’s because it is. Only this time, the issue is
shallow water blackout. It just so happens that a woman by the name
of Rhonda Milner (remember that name!) is waging a battle much like
the one started and won by Nancy Baker. In a strange twist of fate,
Milner just happened to meet Baker at an event she was attending
not long after her son was killed in a shallow water blackout
accident. As you can imagine, the two women had much to
So here we go again. Only this time, aquatics has the opportunity
to learn from the past — and forge its own destiny rather
than let Washington do it for us.
We know with absolutely certainty that allowing underwater
breath-holding can be fatal. Yet a near majority of facilities not
only allow the practice, but they don’t even have signs
warning against it. We know that hypoxic training can be deadly
even for the fittest swimmers. Yet some swim coaches still use the
technique to train athletes. We know that these deaths can be
prevented, yet there’s precious little education or
information available to either industry professionals or the
We also know all too well where all this leads. Anyone needing a
reminder need only turn to our news section for the latest CPSC
reinterpretation of VGBA, which would be funny if it didn’t
have such serious consequences for aquatics.
Let’s make sure the industry doesn’t get VGBA’d
again! Let’s band together as an industry and show Rhonda
Milner and the likes of CPSC that we can police ourselves, thank
you very much.
Let’s get warning signs in facilities that are missing them.
Let’s start education campaigns that raise awareness about
shallow water blackout dangers among the public and the profession.
Let’s shape our own future, form our own policies and, in the
process, show the world how much we care about safety and the
importance of public water.
Unless we do, I can all but guarantee you that one day soon,
we’ll all have a serious case of VGBA déjà vu. Only
this time, it will be all too real.