There’s nothing like cooling off in a pool, river or ocean on a hot day, but beware the dangers of diving right in.
“Hundreds of people are paralyzed each year in the United States after diving head first into a body of water,” says Jack Kelly, DO, FACEP, FAAEM, FCPP, interim chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Medical Center. “These injuries can have severe, lifelong consequences for the victim, family and friends, and most of these injuries are preventable.”
While most people know that diving in headfirst is dangerous, other safety precautions should be taken when entering a body of water.
“Before diving, always check the depth of the water,” advises Dr. Kelly. “When diving from a high point, the depth of the water should be twice the distance you are diving from. And don’t assume that a spot is safe for diving just because you dove there before. Shifting rocks, sand and other debris can change the surface below the water.”
“Never dive into an above-ground pool or in water that is unclear or murky,” continues Dr. Kelly. “Even diving under waves in the ocean can be dangerous if there is a sandbar or other unseen object below the surface.”
It’s also essential that swimmers train to dive safely, as diving skills don’t come naturally.
“Learning how to dive properly can reduce the risk of a neck or spine injury occurring while diving,” Dr. Kelly adds. “And that goes for diving board safety as well.”
Only one person should stand on a diving board at a time. Do not run on the board or bounce more than once, and be sure to dive only off the end of the board. Immediately swim away from the diving board area after diving to clear the way for the next diver.
“Following these safety tips can significantly reduce the chance of injury while diving,” Dr. Kelly says. “And this should go without saying, but never drink alcohol when diving or participating in any other water activity.”