Saturday, April 4, 2009

triathlons pose twice the deadly risk of marathons: the journalism of fear

thanks to laura for posting about the u.s.a today story "triathlons pose a greater health risk than marathons. that story itself reported the results of a research study, "triathlons can pose deadly heart risks," led by dr. kevin harris, a cardiologist at the minneapolis heart institute at abbott northwestern hospital and presented last saturday at the american college of cardiology conference in florida. right off the bat, the title of the study is misleading: it focused on sudden deaths, not just heart attacks, that occurred during triathlons.

ignoring that small detail in the title, i we simply took all the deaths reported, 14, that occurred during the triathlons in the 2 year study, relative to the number of finishers, 922,810, we get a sudden death mortality percentage of .0015 (yes, that's two zeros after the decimal point)! even more astonishing, this statistic is touted as 1.5 time greater that the risk of just running a marathon!

i found it remarkable - but at all unusual - that the headline didn't read: "participants have a 99.9985% chance of survival competing in a triathlon!" but that, of course, wouldn't deter anyone from training for and competing in a triathlon.

honestly, do we really need these "studies" - especially if the results are hyped for all the wrong reasons? for a devastating critique of the reporting (and a detailed breakdown of the statistics), check out the great post, "Yahoo! and heart institute inflate risk of death among triathletes."


ChickenUnderwear said...

What is the likelihood of any group of people dying during any given 5 hour period? Was there a control group in this study?

Anonymous said...

Wear a heart monitor.