Vasovagal syncope (fainting)

Diana McShane

New Member
Hi, I was hoping that someone out there may be able to assist my son (19yo). He has had multiple episodes of vasovagal syncope (fainting) whilst rowing in competition. There seems to be no direct pattern associated with this and he can go for months racing with no episodes and then have one out of the blue. It can happen anywhere from the 250m mark to the 1000m mark and until last weekend had only happened in an eight, but was in a four this time. We have had two ECG stress tests and these have shown that he has a very strong athletic heart which is, of course, very reassuring. Needless to say, however, it is very distressing for both my son and his crew when this happens. He is extremely fortunate to have wonderful support of his rowing mates around him who keep encouraging him and getting him back in the boat. We have consulted a sports psychologist who discussed mindfulness as a action plan, but he hasn't really had much success with this. Has anyone else had any experience with this. Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed!
Looking it up, this has triggering events, such as sight of blood, or emotional distress.
If during races, it may be stress of racing.

It could also be that he is attempting to do too much by himself, not pacing with the boat for the length of the race.
One CANNOT go all out for 200 strokes, or 1000 in a head race, as one might when doing a set of 6 or 8 reps weightlifting at a maximum load. The pain over AT is just too much.

If hitting the catch early, he is momentarily trying to pull the boat by himself, a huge stressor.
Comparable to trying push a 200 lb sled carrying 8 people.

If not breathing deep enough between strokes, he may be rowing on insufficient oxygen.
I know on an erg, at race pace, I can inflate a balloon every stroke with my exhaled breath.
I sometimes show off at kids parties, inflating balloons on one breath each.
Big inhale, big exhale, every stroke rowing hard.