Summer is here and the sun is out! Friends and family are all getting ready for camping and road trips. The outdoors is one of the best things about the great weather and hopping into refreshing cool waters is more tempting than ever. However, jumping into the water for a nice swim is quite different from taking a dive.
Diving might be an exciting water activity to do, but there are many risks involved. For starters, diving into shallow water is the most dangerous. When diving, we want to make sure that we are diving into deep water. It is recommended that the water is at least 10-12 feet deep. Why? This is because diving is an activity that is extremely prone to spinal cord injuries.
What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down your back from the base of your brain to your waist. In shallow water, your head can easily hit the bottom of the ground and cause the bone protecting the spinal cord, the vertebrae, to break. Once damaged, the spinal cord can no longer send nerve impulses to and from the brain. This results in paralysis in different parts of the body.
If you would like to go diving, it is important that you take note of necessary precautions and considerations prior to entering the water.
Preventing Diving Injuries
For prevention, one of the first things that should be done is checking the water depth. It is recommended that you always enter feet first into the water to gauge whether it is safe for diving. It is also important to note that there is no single water depth that promises safety. Other factors that can affect how dangerous it is to dive include the height from the water that the diver is diving from and the skill level of the diver. Diving head first into the water is not recommended for those who are not properly trained or skilled in diving.
Aside from diving skills, prior to heading out into the water, taking a first aid course to better prepare ourselves is always a good idea. First Aid Plus offers a variety of courses, including a Marine Basic First Aid course, focusing on first aid in marine environments. For a full list of first aid courses available, please visit: https://www.firstaidplus.ca/courses-all/.
Next, avoid consuming alcohol when you are swimming or diving. Consumption of alcohol, even in small amounts, can increase the risk of injury. Statistics show that over half of diving injuries and deaths involved alcohol and/or drug use.
Statistics also show that over 40% of spinal injuries are caused by diving in backyard pools. Backyard pools are not typically meant for diving and thus, do not have the appropriate height and depth to do so. In general, avoid diving into pools set up at home or at hotels as these pools are often not meant for diving even if they have a deep end.
Other things to consider include checking out the environment that you are planning to dive in. This means obeying any “No Diving” signs or diving depth regulations. It also means making sure that the diving area is not only deep enough, but also large enough with a clear area from your point of entry to the up-slope in front of the take-off point. This take-off point is usually a deck or a dock. Also make sure that you are diving into clear and unobstructed water. Especially when out in the wilderness, there could be objects such as logs, stumps, boulders and pilings underneath the surface of the water.
In summary, some safety prevention steps to take include:
- Checking the water depth by going into the water feet first before attempting to dive.
- Considering not only the water depth, but also the height that you will be diving from, the length of the water, and the skill level of the person diving.
- Taking a first aid course to better prepare yourself for the wilderness and unfamiliar environments: https://www.firstaidplus.ca/courses-all/.
- Avoiding consumption of alcohol or engaging in drug use when swimming or diving
- Being careful of at-home pools or pools at hotels that have a deep end. Even if there is a diving board or a deep end, the pool may not be suitable for diving headfirst.
- Checking over any unfamiliar environments. When out in public areas, always obey signs and regulations.
- Making sure that there is a large enough clear area between your point of entry into the water and the up-slope in front of the take-off point (i.e. deck or dock).
- Ensuring that you are diving into clear and unobstructed water. Objects such as logs, stumps, boulders and pilings can be hidden underneath the surface of the water.
Keeping in mind all of the above is essential to ensuring that we are engaging in safe water activities. Remember, diving is not safe for everyone anywhere. Even if you can’t go diving in a pool, swimming is still a great way to have fun nonetheless! Put your safety first and this summer, we can all dive headfirst into an enjoyable and safe season.