Public Service Announcement: Shallow-water diving can lead to devastating injuries
Make sure the water is at least 10-12 feet deep
CINCINNATI- Diving into shallow water can result in devastating and irreversible injuries to the spinal cord, warns Robert Bohinski, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon with Mayfield Brain & Spine.
Spinal cord injury occurs when the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves that runs down the back from the base of the brain to the waist, is damaged or severed by trauma. This can occur during a dive into shallow water if the diver's head strikes the bottom, causing the vertebrae that encircle the spinal cord to collapse. If the spinal cord is damaged and is unable to transmit nerve impulses to and from the brain, paralysis occurs.
"When the entire weight of one's body is hits the bottom of a pool or rock, the force transmitted to the cervical spine is incredible"
"When the entire weight of one's body is hits the bottom of a pool or rock, the force transmitted to the cervical spine is incredible," Dr. Bohinski explains. "The physics of what happens is unforgiving, as a diver can enter the water at 15 feet per second. Consider that most of these accidents occur in water that is less than 3 feet deep, and you see why the result is often severe damage to the spinal cord and -- all too often -- complete paralysis."
These accidents, which are completely preventable, leave an individual dependent on machines for the rest of his or her life. As many as one of every 10 injuries to the cervical spinal cord is caused by a diving accident. The victims are predominantly male.
Dr. Bohinski urges parents, teachers, camp counselors, and coaches to impress upon young people the hazards of diving into shallow water. He believes that diving should be performed in water that is at least 10- to 12-feet deep. Swimmers and divers should enter the water feet first to determine depth. The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation urges swimmers never to dive into an above-ground pool.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, an estimated 11,000 spinal cord injuries occur in the United States each year. Males suffer 81.2 percent of these injuries. Diving is the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury among males and the fifth leading cause among females.