ANNAPOLIS, MD — There is still no final word on the cause of death of a Naval Academy officer who died on the afternoon of April 18 after completing a routine physical readiness test, although initial indications look like it may have been heart failure, according to a Naval Academy spokesperson. Just a few weeks after the death, the Navy issued a report advising sailors to exercise with caution.
The officer collapsed near one of the Academy's athletic fields around 1 p.m. and emergency personnel were immediately notified and responded to the scene within minutes, according to the Navy report. The officer was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center where he was pronounced dead later in the afternoon.
“The Naval Academy is deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss,” said Naval Academy Superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt. “Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family.”
An investigation is underway to determine the circumstances surrounding how this incident occurred, according to a Navy spokesperson.
In early May, the Navy put out another report, this one advising sailors of the risks associated with exercising too hard in the summer heat. In this report, no mention was made of the incident.
Lauren Thomas, a weight management coordinator at the hospital's health and wellness center, said in the report that some sailors go to extreme measures to obtain “beach-worthy” bodies.
“A person may become inspired to begin running five miles a day, five times a week,” she said. “Even though they have good intentions, this sudden increase in activity is very dangerous and increases risk of injury.”
Thomas said it is important to take things slowly, especially in the heat, when starting a new exercise regimen. Thomas said the benefits of exercise are not only for physical appearance, but also for overall health and wellness, including heart health. A lack of physical activity can promote high blood pressure, and high blood pressure can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. Regular exercise expands arteries, making it easier for the heart to pump blood throughout the body with less pressure.
“The more you weigh, the higher your blood pressure can go,” Thomas said. “Regular exercise helps lower blood pressure and assist weight loss.”
Both of these reports come weeks after a report issued in early April where Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry Scott stressed the importance of physical readiness for all sailors. He also announced the development of a revision to the Physical Readiness Program instruction during an all-hands call aboard Naval Base Guam. Scott said the number of sailors failing the Physical Readiness Test (PRT) was not making the grade.
“I'm concerned about the health and fitness of our force,” Scott said. “We need to get back to a culture of fitness in our Navy.”
He added that staying fit is not an option if sailors want to stay in the Navy — some of the lastest figures show that more than 11,500 sailors have failed more than three PRTs, which in his opinion, “is not acceptable.”
In the 1990s the Navy started requiring physical training at least three times a week, but Scott said he doesn't feel that policy is being adhered to fleet wide, the report said. He called upon chief petty officers to help along with changing policy to allow the authority to separate sailors from the Navy after failing three PRTs. However, he hopes it doesn't come to that before sailors become more fit.
“I don't want to lose a single sailor because of PRT failure,” he said. “What I do want, and what the Navy is serious about having, is a healthy and fit force. Don't wait for the changes to be made to the current instruction. The time to start getting ready is now.”