The cause of MU student Joseph Pedrotti’s death was a little-known phenomenon called “shallow water blackout,” caused by holding your breath underwater for a prolonged period of time.

Pedrotti, 21, died April 2 during spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida.

An obituary published in the Kansas City Star includes a link to shallowwaterblackoutprevention.org/ and urges the public to become more educated about the phenomenon.

It can be deadly when a swimmer continuously and deliberately holds his or her breath underwater, according to the website. It keeps the carbon dioxide levels in the body extremely low, blocking the brain’s signal to breathe.

At that point, the swimmer loses consciousness or blacks out. The body then reacts and forces a breath, which causes the lungs to fill with water.

Unless there is an immediate rescue, a drowning death will occur.

The condition is also called “hypoxic blackout.”

“Breath-holding games are extremely dangerous,” according to the site. Lack of education about prolonged breath holding and the persistence of underwater games are major causes of these fatalities.

The site urges coaches and military trainers to avoid breath-holding drills, which can be deadly without professional, one-on-one monitoring.

Lifeguards also typically do not have training to monitor breath-holding games and react to the consequences.

The site also urges pool owners to post signs that clearly ban breath-holding drills and games.

These have been developed by a company called Clarion Sign Systems to warn the public about the danger.

According to the obituary, a visitation for Pedrotti was held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 8 at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, Kansas.

A funeral Mass was held at 10 a.m. April 9 at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 5250 Mission Road, Roeland Park.

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