On May 1, silicon valley CEO David Goldberg died tragically while exercising on a treadmill at a vacation resort in Mexico. While details are sparse, authorities have said that he died of severe head trauma while exercising alone. His body was discovered hours later by a relative and it is unclear what exactly caused him to fall and suffer the fatal injury.
This high-profile accidental death now has many casual gym-goers wondering if exercise equipment poses a greater health risk than benefit.
Even though this incident has garnered a great deal of press, actual treadmill injuries are quite rare. According to U.S. government statistics, there are only 3 treadmill deaths annually, and there have only been 30 reported over the last nine years.
On the other hand, treadmill-related injuries are quite common, accounting for nearly 25,000 emergency room visits annually in the U.S. Most of these injuries are sprains and strains related to falls or overuse.
But there are medical conditions that can produce injuries at the gym.
In reality, most exercise-related deaths involving treadmills and other fitness equipment are due to sudden cardiac death. The most common underlying cause of sudden cardiac death is coronary artery disease (CAD).
Many middle aged gym-goers may have risk factors for heart disease and may even have underlying cardiovascular disease, putting them at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
Sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart beats in a rapid irregular way (called ventricular fibrillation) resulting in no effective blood flow to the brain and other essential organs. Survival in cases of sudden cardiac arrest is only 5 percent if nothing is done. If CPR is administered and an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available to shock to the heart back into normal rhythm, survival rates exceed 70 percent.
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest accounts for nearly 450,000 deaths in the US annually.
While we do not know the exact circumstances of Mr. Goldberg’s death, one way that we can all honor him and his life is by working to raise awareness for the importance of learning CPR and the use of an AED.
Basic CPR classes are available in communities all over the U.S., and all classes include instruction in the use of an AED.
According to the American Heart Association, 20 percent or less of Americans are trained in CPR and are able to respond to an emergency. Only about 32 percent of witnessed cardiac arrests receive CPR from bystanders.
Ironically, nearly 88 percent of arrests occur in or near the home — so most of the time, the person we could rescue would be a relative or loved one.
It is essential that we, as a society, push for widespread CPR training and make AEDs available in all public spaces.
Make a difference in your community — learn CPR today!
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