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The dipsomania of great distance: water intoxication in an Ironman triathlete
  1. T D Noakes,
  2. K Sharwood,
  3. M Collins,
  4. D R Perkins
  1. UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Noakes
 UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Sport Science Institute of South Africa, PO Box 115, Newlands, 7725, South Africa;


Of 371 athletes (62% of all finishers) whose weights were measured before and after the 226 km South African Ironman Triathlon, the athlete who gained the most weight (3.6 kg) during the race was the only competitor to develop symptomatic hyponatraemia. During recovery, he excreted an excess of 4.6 litres of urine. This case report again confirms that symptomatic hyponatraemia is caused by considerable fluid overload independent of appreciable NaCl losses. Hence prevention of the condition requires that athletes be warned not to drink excessively large volumes of fluid (dipsomania) during very prolonged exercise. This case report also shows that there is a delayed diuresis in this condition and that it is not caused by renal failure.

  • fluid overload
  • hyponatraemia
  • Ironman triathlon
  • ultra-endurance events

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