Swim Teams Get Sick After Competing in Emery Aquatic Center


After local swim teams continued to complain of suspicious heat stroke related symptoms, local swim coaches decided to address the Emery County Commission regarding the dangers of competing in pool temperatures that are too hot.

On November 27, numerous students on the Emery High School swim team complained they were not feeling well after a meet held at the Emery County Aquatic Center, some even vomiting after the meet. The students complained of an upset stomach, lightheadedness and fatigue, which are all symptoms associated with heat stroke. Swim Coach, and RN, Tammy Oliverson recognized the signs immediately, and knew this was not the first time her students had complained, but the first time so many had complained at once. В During that meet Emery faced-off with rivals Carbon high school and Swim Coach, Kamara Davis, also had her students complain of a sick stomach and fatigue on their bus ride home.

“I had over half my team say they felt queasy, and not right,” Davis told ETV 10 News. “Every teen is different and it is hard to pinpoint different ailments or boundaries, but I have never had so many complain of exhaustion at one time. All I know is, we can go to other facilities and we don’t have this problem, but every time we swim in the Emery County Aquatic Center, one member of my team complains of exhaustion.”

Davis wondered if maybe the pool uses a different chemical or filtering system that may account for so many feeling sick at one time.

When asked about this possible issue, Emery Swim coach Tammy Oliverson said, “I happen to work at the pool, and we have a new filtering system, all chemicals are closely monitored.  I can say with confidence that these reoccurring illnesses are not chemically related, but a result of exhaustion.”

After word that competing teams were also complaining of the same symptoms, Oliverson decided to address the Commission and ask that the Emery County Aquatic Center temperature be closely monitored and kept slightly cooler to accommodate the athletes.

“The County and pool manager have always been very accommodating to the swim team during practices and meets, which I know can be difficult,” Oliverson said.

But what may be considered when discussing accommodation is the agreement between the Emery County School District and Emery County Aquatic Center.

Before construction, the Emery County School District granted the county an eight-acre lot on which the pool would be built, under terms that the Emery swim team would be a first priority for the facility in practice and competitions.

“We have a multi-purpose pool and we have made great concession to the swim team,” Emery County Commissioner James Nelson said.  “On days of swim meets it has to be posted because the general public won’t use the pool.”

Commissioner Nelson told ETV 10 news after meeting with the Emery High School principal Larry Davis, swim coach Tammy Oliverson, and pool manager Shannon Hiatt, he is not sure why this has only recently been brought to the attention of the Commission.

“The pool has been open for over three years, and we have never heard about this before. Pool manager Shannon Hiatt does his best to accommodate the swim team,” Nelson said. “ It was my understanding that the temperature was being dropped sufficiently before meets, but if they want it dropped continuously we can’t do it. The (general public) will not swim in water that cold.”

This brings forth the question: what is the recommended temperature for a public pool and competitive swimming, and are these students in danger?

On October 23, 2010, 26-year-old international athlete, Fran Crippen (Philadelphia,PA), died while competing in the FINA ( International Swimming Federation) Open Water 10-kilometer World Cup in Fujairah, south of Dubai. В Eight kilometers into the race Crippen had told his coach he was not feeling well but continued to push on. Crippen never finished the race and his body was discovered in the water almost two hours later. Investigative reports said Crippen had died from overexertion and heat exhaustion, from swimming in a water temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

The water in which Crippen perished was open water which FINA guidelines specifies should never exceed 88 degrees during times of competition, but water in a controlled setting such as an Olympic pool has much cooler guidelines.

The guidelines for water temperature in a pool used for competitive events ranging from water polo, lap swimming, synchronized swimming and diving, should stay within 78-82 degrees plus or minus one degree.

“We keep the pool just under 86 degrees and during swim meets we drop the temperature,” Nelson said.

Commissioner Nelson also questioned how the coaches were certain heat exhaustion; not poor conditioning or nutrition had caused the illnesses.

“The swimmers may have been sick from poor nutrition or poor conditioning,” said Nelson.

With a season five weeks shorter than years past, as set by the UHSAA for the 2012-2013 season, Coach Oliverson said there has been more strain placed on the team to be ready, but conditioning and nutrition have never been an issue.

“My kids are state qualifiers, who know the importance of proper nutrition and dedication to the sport,” Oliverson told ETV 10 news. “My swimmers know what to eat, and parents know how important it is to keep them fed and in shape.”

Only into their fourth season, Emery has had students place in state every year, with this year looking to have the same results, but the team worries the temperature of the pool has not only had an effect on their health, but their performance as well.

How does swimming in water that is too warm affect a swimmer’s performance?

The guidelines set forth by FINA are in place due to the body’s ability to cool itself. It can be a common misconception that swimming laps in water is much easier than running laps on land, because the body seems to work harder judging from the athlete’s physical appearance. В The visual assessment is simple, who has more sweat? But further medical evidence proves otherwise. В Water temperatures in the mid and upper 80’s may not allow your body’s heat to dissipate, according to Dr. Kenneth Kamler, author of “Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance.” When interviewed by CNN, regarding the death of Fran Crippen, Kamler explained that this trapping of body heat can cause muscle spasms, possibly leading to heart arrhythmia or lung failure. Signs to watch for during warm water swims include nausea, headache and a lightheaded sensation.

After meeting with the principal, swim coaches and pool manager before Christmas, Commissioner Nelson said they have agreed to adjust the temperature of the pool, but to what degree, when, and how often has not yet been decided upon.  The pool manager Shannon Hiatt, and Nelson are trying to find “common ground” so the general public will not be affected by the change.

“With the pool’s high season obviously being in the summer and the swim season ending in early February, we hope the change will not affect many paying patrons,” Oliverson said.

As of the team’s first practice after the Christmas holiday on Wednesday, January2, Oliverson reported her students are still saying the water is too hot.


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