The aquatics community is no stranger to the dangers of breath-holding exercises and the potential for shallow water blackout. For years, industry expert Tom Griffiths has been advocating for his peers to take more serious action to prevent tragedies related to the controversial practice. Despite these efforts, however, a number of deaths have been recorded as a result of extended breath holding.
One such incident involving two Navy SEALS took place in April of this year when Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Brett Allen Marihugh and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Seth Cody Lewis died after a private training session involving breath-holding.
Nearly eight months after the tragedy, the Navy has released the findings of its investigation into the deaths at a base in Little Creek/Fort Story, Virginia. According to a report obtained by the Detroit News, the Navy ruled out misconduct. However, the Navy now will require a lifeguard or first-class swimmer to be present on deck at Naval Special Warfare pools for all conditioning swims other than laps. Signs also are to be posted in pool facilities expressly prohibiting breath-holding, the news agency reported.
“Our commitment to be the best and push ourselves to ever higher levels of proficiency must be tempered by safety compliance that is often learned from a past tragedy like this one,” Rear Admiral B.L. Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in an Aug. 14 letter accompanying the investigation. “Overconfidence is an ever-present risk factor.”
The Navy is not alone in taking action. Earlier this year, the City of New York banned breath holding at its swimming pools. The metropolis joined Santa Barbara, Calif. as the only other city to ban the practice at public facilities.