SAN JOSE, California – A professional soccer player who nearly drowned in Lake Tahoe likely suffered cold water shock, a condition that regularly overwhelms swimmers in the icy waters of the mountain lake, authorities said Friday.
Matheus Silva, 20, emerged from a coma Thursday, the San Jose Earthquakes said. The Brazilian defender was responsive and able to speak but will undergo additional testing.
Swimmers drown or nearly drown each year in the lake along the Nevada-California border from cold water shock syndrome, in which people lose the ability to float because their muscles cramp, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Eric Guevin said. There are two to three similar cases each year.
“He’s probably a real strong swimmer. This is frequent with athletes who don’t have a lot of insulation or fat,” Guevin said. “It is a point where they lose the control of their body and their muscles.”
Silva was swimming early Tuesday with teammates about 20 yards from the shore of the public beach near Zephyr Cove Resort when he cried out for help and then went underwater, the fire marshal said.
His teammates and a person on a paddleboard rescued him and started CPR before emergency crews arrived.
Surface water temperature in the famed lake hovers around the mid-50s this time of year. Silva wasn’t wearing a lifejacket, which is recommended in the cold water.
Silva’s pulse and breathing came back with emergency aid at the scene, Guevin said. He was taken to a nearby hospital before being flown to a facility in Reno, Nevada. Family members and Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli were by his side.
“The entire Earthquakes organization is grateful for the invaluable effort by the doctors, players and staff at Reno 1868 FC and bystanders on the beach that contributed to Matheus being alive and well today,” Fioranelli said.
Silva was playing this season on loan for Reno 1868 FC, which is part of the United Soccer League. The soccer club beat the LA Galaxy II on Monday night, but Silva didn’t play in the 9-0 win.