Swimming is one of the top summer activities. Swimming provides both relaxation and exercise. Without safety cautions swimming can be hazardous. Children 17 and younger are more susceptible to injuries if they fail to exercise caution. U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 237,500 swimming and 25,522 diving injuries in 2012. Most of these back and neck injuries are preventable by adherence to safety tips.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and American Spinal Injury Association provide the following safety tips for swimmers:
- Don’t ever dive into shallow water. Before diving, inspect the depth of the water to make sure it is deep enough for diving. If diving from a high point, make sure the bottom of the body of water is double the distance from which you’re diving. For example, if you plan to dive from eight feet above the water, make sure the bottom of the body of water, or any rocks, boulders or other impediments are at least 16 feet under water.
- Never dive into above-ground pools
- Never dive into water that is not clear, such as a lake or ocean, where sand bars or objects below the surface may not be seen.
- Only one person at a time should stand on a diving board. Dive only off the end of the board and do not run on the board. Do not try to dive far out or bounce more than once. Swim away from the board immediately afterward to make room for the next diver.
- Refrain from body surfing near the shore since this activity can result in cervical spine injuries, some with quadriplegia, as well as shoulder dislocations and shoulder fractures.
- Do not swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
- Make sure children are supervised at all times. Backyard pools should have a 5-foot minimum high fence that completely surrounds it.
- Don’t attempt to swim if tired, cold or overheated.
- An inexperienced swimmer should wear a life jacket in the water.
- When swimming in open water, never run and never enter waves head first.
- Carefully monitor weather conditions before and while swimming. Avoid being in the water during storms, fog or high winds. Do not swim in a lake or river after a storm, if the water seems to be rising or if there is flooding.
- Be aware of and avoid rip currents (powerful, channeled water currents flowing away from shore). Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves.
- Develop a plan for reaching medical personnel who can treat swimming-related injuries. Anyone watching swimmers near the water should learn CPR and be able to rescue them.
- Never swim or dive under the influence.
Shaheer Yousaf, M.D., FACS
Center for Advanced Orthopedics