Diving Safety

Swimming and diving are favorite summer activities for many adults and children. Sadly, according to the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation:

  • As many as 1,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year due to shallow water diving
  • Ninety percent of all diving injuries cause a spinal cord injury which results in paralysis
  • Most injuries occur to males aged 15-25 years
  • Most injuries occur while diving into six feet of water or less
  • Three out of four injuries occur in lakes, rivers, oceans and other natural bodies of water

Diving or sliding injuries result from the victim propelling headfirst into some part of the pool or ground. The position of the head and neck and the direction and speed of impact all determine the resulting spinal injury.

Safety Tips

  • Know the depth of the water before you dive. Remember “feet first, first time.” Walk into the water the first time to check it out.
  • It is recommended that water be at least 11 feet deep for safe diving from the side of a pool and 12 feet deep for safe diving from a board. Water should be at least 5 feet deep in the slide landing area.
  • Always feet first slides into the pool.
  • Don’t dive from ladders, slides, fences, ledges or pool equipment.
  • Don’t dive from the side of the diving board – dive straight ahead.
  • Keep the landing area around board or slide free of other swimmers.
  • To dive safely, hold your head and arms up and steer with your hands. Keep your arms extended over your head during the dive.
  • Do not dive into an aboveground pool or the shallow end of a pool.
  • Do not dive into shallow (or unknown) open water like lakes and rivers. Be aware that water depths are affected by droughts and floods. There can be unseen underwater debris that poses a hazard.
  • Don’t run and dive. Don’t do a back dive.
  • Never drink and dive. According to ThinkFirst, more than half of all serious diving incidents occur when the diver has been drinking.
  • Always supervise children while diving and swimming.
  • Always follow posted water safety rules.

If you suspect that someone has sustained a spinal cord injury from a shallow water dive:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Approach the victim carefully.
  • Hold the victim’s head in alignment with his back and gently turn him onto his back so he can breathe. If possible, have someone assist.
  • Keep the head and back stabilized.
  • Support the victim with something sturdy – pool equipment, oar, ring buoy, etc.
  • Do not remove the victim from the water until EMS arrives. Movement can cause further damage to the spinal cord.

Suspect any victim of a diving or sliding accident to have a spinal injury and handle accordingly.

Every single diving injury is preventable.

Additional Resources


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