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kottke.org posts about Sam Peterman

Fading at the finish

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

Sam Peterman is a sophomore in high school near Buffalo who runs track. She also has a condition called neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS) that causes her to faint after every race she runs, right into the waiting arms of her father soon after she crosses the finish line.

Dr. Blair Grubb, a professor at the University of Toledo who has studied syncope extensively, characterized NCS in a 2005 article in The New England Journal of Medicine as the autonomic nervous system’s failure to keep blood pressure high enough to maintain consciousness.

Physical activity, he said, pools blood in the lower half of the body, reducing blood flow to the heart. In response, the heart pumps more vigorously. In people with NCS, the brain misreads that as high blood pressure and tries to lower the pressure, which leads to decreased blood flow to the brain and, thus, fainting.

Peterman often does not remember the ends of races — she blacked out the last 60 meters of a recent race — which has prompted her father to wonder why she faints after races and not during. See also No pain, possible gain. (via @atul_gawande)