Summertime means swimming and diving, but a seemingly innocent act – plunging headfirst into a pool or lake to cool off – can lead to traumatic injuries such as a broken neck or spine, fractures or sprains, concussions, paralysis and even death.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that in 2016, nearly 36,000 diving-related injuries were treated in ERs and doctors’ offices.
The most frequent cause of these diving injuries is misjudging how deep water is before swimming or diving.
If you dive headfirst into water that’s too shallow, the blow to your head can reverberate down your spine, crushing bones and damaging nerves and tissue along the way.
To avoid serious injury, always check the depth of water before you dive. Public pools are often clearly marked with depth in feet, but a private pool, lake, or stream can prove difficult to gauge.
Ask someone who is familiar with the water before diving in, and if you’re still unsure of how deep it is, always jump in feet first.
Other ways to prevent diving injuries include:
- Not diving if you’re too tired, overheated or intoxicated when judgment can be impaired.
- If diving from higher distances, make sure the bottom of the water appears to be at least double the distance from which you’re diving.
- Never plunge headfirst into water that is murky or not clear.
- Refrain from horseplay on diving boards, and don’t run when taking off before a dive.
If a swimmer appears to have suffered a head or neck injury from diving, always seek immediate medical help.
(Adapted from AAOS-American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)