Diving Into Summer, Feet First
Orthopaedic surgeons offer safety tips for swimmers.
Family trips to lakes, pools and other bodies of water make for enjoyable, lasting memories, especially during the hot summer months. Unfortunately, not all of these trips have a happy ending due to unsafe diving practices.
Each year, hundreds of divers, primarily young people, are paralyzed from neck and spine injuries caused by diving head first into shallow lakes and pools. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 21,500 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics as a result of diving-related injuries. Approximately 7,366 of those injuries were children ages 16 and younger.
Orthopaedic surgeons experience and treat the first-hand devastation that these injuries cause, not just for the victims, but also for their families. Before plunging into any shallow, or unknown water, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the American Spine Injury Association (ASIA) and the Cervical Spine Research Society (CSRS) would like to remind individuals to think carefully about the body of water they are jumping into and practice safe diving skills.
«Everyone needs to be trained to dive safely,» said AAOS spokesperson and orthopaedic surgeon Brett A. Taylor, MD. «Safe diving skills don’t come naturally, they have to be learned. With neck and spine injuries being the most common diving injuries, a good rule of thumb for divers is to dive feet first in unknown water.»
Consider the following AAOS, ASIA and CSRS safety tips to prevent diving injuries:
- Don’t ever dive into shallow water. Before diving, inspect the depth of the water to make sure it is deep enough for diving. If diving from a high point, make sure the bottom of the body of water is double the distance from which you’re diving. For example, if you plan to dive from eight feet above the water, make sure the bottom of the body of water, or any rocks, boulders or other impediments are at least 16 feet under water.
- Never dive into above-ground pools.
- Never dive into water that is not clear, such as a lake or ocean, where sand bars or objects below the surface may not be seen.
- Only one person at a time should stand on a diving board. Dive only off the end of the board and do not run on the board. Do not bounce more than once. The board’s rebound effect could knock your legs unexpectedly out from under you or throw your body off balance and cause an injury.
- Swim away from the board immediately after diving to make room for the next diver.
- Refrain from body surfing near the shore since this activity can result in cervical spine injuries, some with quadriplegia, as well as shoulder dislocations and shoulder fractures.