Competitive eating is a dangerous sport -- and shouldn't be taken lightly -- because choking accidents like the tragedy in South Dakota are far too common ... so says pro eating champ Molly Schuyler.
Schuyler -- who's competed in contests involving steaks, wings, hot dogs and more -- tells TMZ Sports it's essential for competitive eaters to make sure there are trained medics on hand whenever they compete ... something that doesn't always happen.
"Mom and pop shops don’t usually want to spend the money for [medical personnel] ... Schuyler says ... warning amateurs to NOT COMPETE in events that aren't properly staffed with EMTs.
In fact, Schuyler says even with all of her years of experience ... she's had scares from choking on food during competitions.
Several pro eating leagues -- including Major League Eating -- mandate emergency medical personnel be present for any speed-eating event ... even 30 second media exhibitions.
As we previously reported, a man died in SD on July 3rd after choking during an amateur hot dog eating contest. Officials say by the time emergency personnel arrived to the scene, it was too late.
Schuyler says she hopes organizers can learn from the tragedy to better protect competitors in the future.