One of the most preventable causes of spinal cord injuries is diving. Generally, a single person decides to take a single dive that results in a life-altering injury. These accidents are more common than most people realize, and the outcome is often a severe cervical spinal cord injury, resulting in tetraplegia (quadriplegia). Diving injuries take place in swimming pools, lakes, rivers, creeks, swimming holes and just about any water environment you can think of.
How Common are Diving Injuries?
Diving is the fifth leading cause of spinal cord injury for men and women, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. Considering that injuries occur mostly during the summer months, we can assume that the numbers would be much higher if it were warm enough to swim all year long.
Know the Risks of Diving
Know that any single dive can change your life and the lives of your loved ones forever. Our patients, who are often in the prime of their life, are commonly paralyzed and often have to rely on others for help with the most basic tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom. The potential reward from diving is always outweighed by the risk.
"Preventing Diving Injuries and Staying Safe in the Water"
Shepherd Center Injury Prevention Director Emma Harrington, MSPS, discusses how and where diving injuries occur, and how to prevent them.
How to avoid a diving injury:
- The best way to enter the water is ALWAYS feet first.
- Never dive into the shallow end of a pool.
- Know that there are often hidden objects in lakes, rivers, etc.
- Avoid alcohol when you’re swimming.
- Realize that when you dive, your body is a torpedo cutting through the water and that water may not protect you from a severe impact.
- Just because you used to dive somewhere does not make it safe. You may have grown and underwater surfaces may have shifted.
- Some injuries are caused by hitting the far side of a pool or swimming hole. Depth is not the only thing to be concerned about.