A cardiologist says he wasn’t shocked to learn superfit surf lifesaver and champion ironman Dean Mercer suffered a fatal heart attack after years of endurance sports.
Dean Mercer died after he suffered a heart attack and crashed his car into a fence on August 28 at just 47 years old.
‘It’s less of a surprise for me,’ Gold Coast cardiologist Dr Ross Sharpe said shortly after Mercer’s death.
‘We know high-end, long-term endurance is absolutely a risk factor to death … anyone in that 40-plus age bracket is a (cardiac) risk but being an endurance athlete for many years does expose you to a number of cardiac conditions that can increase your chances of death,’ Dr Sharpe told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
He said in his job he has seen similar cases.
Dr Sharpe emphasised the specific cause for his heart failure was yet to be determined but said it was a good opportunity to remind people over 40 of the risks.
‘In general terms, there are a number of cardiac conditions that could lead to a premature, sudden death in fit people,’ he says.
‘There’s a thing called athlete’s heart where you get marked thickening of the muscle because the heart has been working harder so much and that can lead to rhythm disturbances.’
Friends and former rivals of ironman champion Dean Mercer gathered to remember the father-of-four following his sudden death on Wednesday.
An informal memorial was held at the Gold Coast’s Kurrawa Sports Club to honour Mercer.
Several of the men Mercer raced against during his long and illustrious surf lifesaving career were among those to attend the emotional memorial.
‘The response has been phenomenal,’ said former world champion Phil Clayton, who organised the event.
‘It’s been amazing since his passing how many have reached out; just shows what a great guy he was.’
Among those to gather were Mercer’s former training partner Brett Dowker, family friend and spokesman Ian Hanson, ironman Ky Hurst and champion swimmer Grant Hackett.
‘Yesterday, we lost one of the greatest ironman to walk the earth,’ Hackett wrote on social media on Tuesday.
‘It’s a loss that words can not describe. He was a great competitor, friend, dad and husband.’