If you’re thinking of trying the Wim Hof breathing method, be sure to do it with a trainer, or at least a friend, around.
A 29-year-old man drowned while practising the Wim Hof method in a Yio Chu Kang swimming pool.
Found Lying Underwater By Neighbour Walking By
Mr Danzel Goh Choon Meng’s death on 27 March 2021 was ruled as a misadventure by State Coroner Adam Nakhoda yesterday (14 January).
Mr Goh had gone to the Mimosa Park swimming pool at Yio Chu Kang with his wife that evening. A resident entered the pool to swim laps at 7:10pm, and noted that Mr Goh was not swimming laps. He seemed to be doing breathing exercises.
Mr Goh’s wife left the pool area around ten minutes later to complete the chores at home. About fifteen minutes after that, the resident left the pool as well. Mr Goh remained in the water the entire time.
At around 7:50pm, Mr Goh’s neighbour walked past the pool area and recognised Mr Goh’s phone by the poolside. He heard sounds coming from the phone, and thus walked closer to look even though he did not see anyone in the pool.
When he walked close enough and saw Mr Goh lying at the bottom of the pool, the neighbour immediately notified the security guard at Mimosa Park’s main entrance.
Underwater for 38 Minutes Before Rescue, Pronounced Dead At Hospital
Closed-circuit television footage revealed that Mr Goh had been underwater for nearly 38 minutes before being rescued.
Neighbours pulled him out of the pool while paramedics were called. However, he did not wake even with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
He did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead at 9:30pm in the hospital. A forensic pathologist confirmed drowning as his cause of death.
Downloaded and Used Wim Hof App A Week Before Death
Mr Goh’s wife described him as a person with an active lifestyle, who regularly ran, lifted weights and did static training. She said he downloaded the Wim Hof application a week before his death and had been using it.
His phone showed that he had logged records in the app of performing breathing basics in the days before his death.
State Coroner Nakhoda said that Mr Goh seemed to have done the breathwork component of the Wim Hof method on dry land for about a week before his death. There was no clear explanation why he decided to practice it in the pool when the app warned him not to practice in or near water.
Nakhoda said that one should not hyperventilate then do prolonged breath-holding underwater by themselves. They should, instead, have a buddy focusing on them at all times in the pool.
This is so that the buddy can safely and quickly take the person out of the water and provide first aid if the person runs into difficulties.
What Is The Wim Hof Method?
This breathing method has three components. The first of it is breathwork, where practitioners will take up to 30 breaths before holding their breath for a period of time. The second step is cold immersion, where they immerse themselves in cold water between three to six degrees Celsius for less than two minutes. The third step is the mindset component.
Mr Tan Chun Yih, an expert in the Wim Hof method, said that the breathwork step should never be practised in or near water. This is because the act of expelling carbon dioxide during hyperventilation will decrease the person’s urge to breathe, allowing one to hold his breath longer.
However, the practitioner may faint from a lack of oxygen, as they hold their breath longer without the urge to breathe. They will automatically breathe again as they can’t consciously hold their breath anymore. If this occurred in the water, the person would suffer shallow water blackout and drown.
Educating the Public on Shallow Water Blackout
SportSG’s Sport Safety Divison Head, Madam Delphine Fong, said that shallow water blackout is the most common amongst physically fit swimmers, spear fishermen and freedivers.
This loss of consciousness comes from breath-holding underwater, typically after hyperventilation has occurred. In shallow water blackouts, it takes 2.5 minutes before brain damage and death, as opposed to six to eight minutes for a drowning person not experiencing shallow water blackout.
SportSG has disseminated the Water Surveillance Guide to all public swimming pools and at school talks. It has a section on shallow water blackout.
This will also be included as a topic in a water safety technical reference code of practice, which all swimming operators, including private pool operators, will receive.
SportSG has been researching, discussing and doing statistical analysis on this issue ever since an incident in 2008 where a boy drowned in a one-metre deep pool during a swimming class.
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