image of barnstable county courthouse

Breath-Holding In The Pool Can Spark Sudden Blackouts And Death

There’s a dare that floats out on hot days by the pool: Who can hold their breath the longest? In shallow water, the challenge sounds fun or at least harmless. Competitive swimmers and divers crouch under the surface all the time to build endurance. But the practice can cause swimmers to faint and drown without warning and before anyone notices.

Whitner Milner was one of those people. The 25-year-old recreational diver and spear-fisher from Atlanta was training to hold his breath for three minutes. On April 16, 2011, he got into the family pool alone. His mother found his body the next evening, locked in a breath-holding position, one hand crossed over his chest and the other resting at his throat.

The medical examiner determined that a blackout brought on by holding his breath was a likely cause of death by drowning.