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Should Triathletes Donate Blood? Sure. by John Post, MD


“Back off man, I’m a scientist.” Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

I think triathletes should donate blood. All of us. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Red Cross or your local blood service, just do it. Did you know that only 3% of the population gives blood so that 100% may ultimately benefit?

The first thing, as an athlete, you want to know how long it takes to return to the predonation levels. Back to where you’re not actually reverse blood doping. Well the plasma level is back up in 24 hours and the oxygen carrying red cells normalize in about 4-6 weeks. That’s why you can donate again in 8 weeks. Think about how frequently you read on Slowtwitch about someone being injured, car hits bike and the like, and then think what if that becomes you? Will there be blood available? The red cells only have a shelf life of 5 or 6 weeks, some of the components even less.

So what happens when the other 97% of us go to the blood bank to donate for the very first time? First you register where they ask a bunch of questions, all very confidentially, to make sure it’s right for them and right for you. They even take your pulse, temperature and blood pressure free for nothing. Consider that the swim, and T1 is getting your arm really clean and inserting a sterile, brand new needle for the blood draw. The bike, actually have the collection bag fill takes only a few minutes – faster than some of us do a transition in an iron distance race! Honestly.

T2 is where they finish up and wrap your arm with a colorful (quite noticeable to all colorful – “Why yes I did just give blood, thanks for asking,” and thinking me a real stud!) The run is to the snack area where you can have unlimited Oreos, Fig Newtons (an IM sponsor) sodas, etc. and in 10 minutes you’re back on the sidewalk ready for action. A PR for sure.Imagine how good you feel when you do something for others. And it’s nearly September so many of us have nearly finished our racing season making it an ideal time to give. And for those of you who say, “But I’m afraid of needles,” this is totally out weighed by the “accomplishment they get at the end of the successful donation.” Did I mention the Oreos?

So, get out the phone book and find the nearest place to give. You’ll be so glad you did. It’s a pretty cool thing to be proud of. At least I think so.