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 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.
Diving is the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury for men and the fifth for 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 that any single dive can change your life and the lives of your loved ones forever. Patients, who are often in the prime of their life, are commonly paralyzed, must use a wheelchair for the rest of their lives, 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.
How to avoid a diving injury:
- ALWAYS enter the water 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 (many times alcohol makes you feel vulnerable to risks or dares)
- Don’t show off and try to impress, 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.
- The most important thing to remember, Diving can be a fun sport when in an environment that is controlled and you have been trained, such as Olympic athletes, but many times severe injuries happen due to poor decision making. So be smart and enjoy water sports and activities this summer by following the proper safety rules.