The Dangers of Breath Holding

Recorded April 19, 2011

Whether you’re a lifeguard, an aquatics director, a CEO or just a concerned citizen, you can prevent shallow water blackout and drowning. “Shallow water blackout” is a term used to describe a swimmer going unconscious while underwater from prolonged, repetitive or competitive breath holding.

Shallow water blackout most often involves well-conditioned swimmers and it occurs without warning. Lifeguards and pool managers need to understand this dangerous practice and how to intervene the moment it is identified. Only through education and enforcement by the entire swimming community can we stop this dangerous practice.

Here are some resources to help you understand the dangers of breath holding and how to prevent shallow water blackout in your pools.

If you have any questions about prolonged breath holding, repetitive breath holding or competitive breath holding, please post in the comments section below.

Online Training

The full Shallow Water Blackout training is available on The Redwoods Institute. See all available online training courses:

  • YMCA Online Training
  • JCC Online Training
  • Camp Online Training


  • Swim Coach Nearly Drowns During Hypoxic Event (03/2009)
  • Breath Holding and Shallow Water Blackout (03/2008)
  • Breath Hold Swimming and Diving (03/2008)
  • Swimmer’s Endurance Technique Can Be Deadly (02/2007)


  • Breath Holding or Breathing Control, Gareth Hedges (05/2011)
  • The Dangers of Breath Holding, Yvonne McCarty (04/2011)
  • 16 Year Old Nearly Drowns from Shallow Water Blackout, Dan Baum (06/2010)



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