T Nation

Strength Athletes Dying Early


What is up with this trend of powerlifters, strongmen and other strength enthusiasts dying so young lately?

Besides the more high profile cases like Jessie Marunde, if you pick up Powerlifting USA you constantly read about powerlifters dropping dead of heart attacks at a young age.

Is it because of the obesity and poor diet that many plers at the heavier weight classes exhibit? Andy Bolton, Gene Rychlak and many others like these look like fat slobs. Is it poor diet, no cardio and steroids cooking up an early death or what?


dont know yet the reasons for marunde, and i havent heard much about other guys dying..
saying that alot of guys who are powerlifters and even some i know of are unhealthily over weight, carrying way too much bodyfat and all that adds stress on the heart, not to mention the big lifts they do also, when their heart is already under a hell of a lot of stress


Through very hard work, these guys got to the point where they could push their bodies far beyond the point where most people stop.

This is incredibly stressful and can aggravate any previously existing problems within their bodies, which can ultimately lead to early death.

Poor diet certainly doesn't help matters either.


There's a trend? Who else has died? Maybe once a month you see somebody's name pop up, but that's just life. I think you may be overstating it a bit. I don't think there is an epidemic of PLs dropping dead. PL/strongman etc. involves a lot of risk with regard to pushing your body beyond its limits. Marunde is a perfect example of that, trying to push himself harder and something went wrong.


I wouldn't say Andy Bolton was a fat slob, at least not on the same level as Rychlak. I'm pretty sure he does more cardio than you'd expect and eats pretty clean too. If I can find the article where he talks about it I'll stick it up.


No one who can lift 1000 pounds is a fat slob.


Great post and close to the heart of all Iron Warriors.

It's not just Strong Men dying. It seems to me that Powerlifters, Bodybuilders, Wrestlers and Footballers are dying young also. I've heard of guys in Hockey beer leagues too. Is it for real or just a coincidence?

I have to plea ignorance on the issue but would like see some intelligent comments and discussion from the experts in the field.

Could any Testosterone Nation Authors/Coaches comment or write an article about it? It would be greatly appreciated from the bottom of my hearts. Please help us not to die young, our families need us.

Jesse Marunde's death hit hard. Could I be next?
Don't smoke, drink seldom, BF 10-15%(guess), don't use AS or Coke/Meth/Ephedrine either' lots of coffee though. Lift heavier weights than 80% of gym goers and play pick up football on weekends. 5'10'' 205 lbs.

I've revised my will and life insurance. Since most survive their heart attack, I've purchased critical illness insurance also. What else can I do?

"If it's my time to go I hope it's swift and quiet in my sleep like my grandpa, not kicking and screaming like the passengers of the bus he was driving".


rychlak? (sorry for the cheap shot, but i coudn't resist.)


Andy Bolton's article about his training was in Flex. And yeah he dedicates I think two days a week to cardio. I don't call him a slob.


your post hit me - i've had 4 heart attacks - the paramedics weren't too sure if i'd make it to the hospital on the last one. that scared the shit out of me -didn't want to die with no one around me except these strangers...

one big thing - don't stress over it, don't worry about it. you don't want that stress.

take out as much life insurance as you can afford to protect your family - good thing i had the foresight to do that before the heart attacks. next to impossible for me to get anymore at this point.

it's been almost 4 years since the first and 2 years since the last - and i'm only 48. never was fat, had a cholesterol profile that was excellent, no coffee, no soda - however, i did eat like shit and i stressed incredibly at work and then took it home with me. took 4 of them suckers to learn to really relax.

i cleaned up my act - eat really well now, started weight training, got my bodyfat down to 16% - and i listen very closely to my body how it feels - i can always lift more tomorrow - no need to hurry today.

my heart rhythm is much better, i don't get as anxious anymore and i most certainly, most definitely do not stress as much anymore. shit happens - and then so does luck and feeling like there ain't nuthin' i can't do, so long as i puts in my 110% effort.

peace be with you.


Honestly, are we blaming this on some lifter's bellies? Seriously. I see people come in and out of the restruant with guts that are like Homer Simpsons, big all the way around. These guys are not young usually. Why haven't they died?

Pushing yourself? Come on. Millions of athletes, some big, push themeselves to extreme levels every day. Not many of them drop dead at 23.

I'm not gonna be a classic and blame juice...but ya never know. Poor diet? Maybe. I'd think that most people eat fairly clean tho, even if they do have some fat. And bodybuilders are the leanest of the lean and this shit happens to them too.


Alot of them do die young, or develop seriuos life threatening problems that causes them to go to the hospital for one problem that leads to another, and another. It doesn't happen to everybody but it does happen alot more to the big huge slobs who don't lift. Having a disproportionately large belly has been proven time and time agian to lead to health issues.

They do die also. It seems at least one basketball player a year dies on the ncaa court from a heart issue, that would not have happened if they didn't play ball. I know if I played college basketball and some doctor told me my heart couldn't handle it I still would, and push it to the limit.
Athletes die in other sports also.

Researchers need to look for direct correlations, however normal people need to stop. The reasons for dying are as complex as the body itself. Many of the powerlifters that you think are healthy didn't start off that way. For the longest time the motto was eat everything you possibly can and lift heavy. If you did this in your teen years and decided to become healthy last year, your body still may have not adjusted. Steriods in my opinion does have an effect on something, if at one time in your life you overdoesed on that theres no telling what that could effect.

Lets not forget the binge drinking on weekends and cheat meal days of 2 pizza pies. One day of clogged arteries just might effect your heart when your doing 20 rep squat with twice your bodyweight for 5 sets. Eat fish year round who knows your genetics might be extra sensative to mercury. Maybe your middle school was the first to experiment with lead/abspetos(I have no clue how to spell it) paint. It can be something as little as lungs can't handle training in denver, taking a flight out and competing in Jamaica. Theres millions of reasons.


mmm Iron Maiden's song "only the good die young" should be changed to
Only the strong die young
All the weak seem to live forever
Only the strong die young
All the weak seem to live forever
Only the strong die young
Only the strong die young


Are you kidding me?

Rychlak looks like he does about double bodyweight. His fucking gut is so big it looks like he is 9 months pregnant with septuplets. Anthony Clark who also died young was another morbidly obese powerlifter.

Andy Bolton is another fat slob. Gary Frank before he trimmed down a bit was another morbid fatso. In fact, show me some people that can lift that much weight and who aren't cellulite supremacists full of wiggly-jiggly, prodigious amounts of lard and blubber; they are in the minority...


I would have to find all of my old issues of PL USA, but there are tons of names in there of heavyweight powerlifters who are dropping dead in their 30's and 40's mostly because of heart conditions; strongmen too like that American a few years ago who died at 28 from a heart attack, Anthony Clark and tons of more obscure lifters. I would call this a trend. Lots of wrestlers dying too.


Oh, so regular people who eat in "cheat meal" style every fuckin day and live to be 90, they must have magical powers.

I know, I know, none of these guys ever did drugs or anything, cause all these 30yo guys who are in otherwise good shape and just drop dead obviously die because they ate two pizza "pies." Oy fucking vay.


Well, I mean seriously.
What do you expect? if you weigh 300 lbs, be it slob or pure rock you are taxing all your organs far more than someone who weighs 100 lbs less, it is common sense.

Many heavy weightlifters, and bodybuilders do suffer from poor health, perhaps not as poor as these guys you talk about (since they already died) but many have problems with the liver or the pancreas, also heart problems.

As someone said, it is not the diet, or the activity or anything like that, it is you, and what you decide to do with your body, you can't really isolate a cause, everyone is different.


Christ, that may be what happened to n3wb. He got himself "jacked" to a 43inch waist, achieved a "groin pull" then dropped dead! LOL


When you are a 350 lb. sloth that drops dead, no one takes notice. Fat slobs are supposed to die from unhealthy habits.

When you are a 2-300 lb. strength athlete who drops dead, people notice.

It violates peoples notion of strength and ability when a supposedly strong healthy person kicks the bucket, without regard for masked or not easily identifiable conditions.

Just by the numbers, some athletes are going to die from -(I could be mistaken on the name, sorry)- ventricular hypertrophy, but it is a very common condition in anybody who trains in anything athletic. The uncommon circumstance is when someone dies from it.

If they die from it while playing NCAA ball, or peddling the Tour de France, the media is going to be all over it, and people that don't know anything about obscured conditions of trained athletes are going to be shocked.

Never mind the 9,999 who are in the best shape of their lives, there is one dead athlete in the headlines. Exercise must be bad for the heart.


An assertion like this may be true but it would need to be backed up by 1) statistical analysis compared to average and 2) a working theory that explains it and can be seen in the evidence.

My guess would be that men who push themselves very hard with weightlifting, and i mean these incredible weights they handle, on a regular basis are creating pressure on their whole systems that normal weightlifters and sedentary people rarely encounter.

They also tend to have a certain bodytype - heavy bones, thick midriff and they tend to look older than they are, losing hair young and so on. Not always but you can see it again and again in strongmen.

Also it's possible that many people don't have the robustness to deal with this level of intensity again and again but only those who go into it will test that to the full, i.e. it's not them as such it's the fact that only such intense regular lifting reveals underlying weaknesses others never encounter.

But many of them don't die young of course and maybe it's just more noticeable when a younger and apparently healthy athlete does die. Still have to respect their sheer drive and ability.