Safety First Before Diving Into Summer

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As temperatures rise this summer, a day at the pool or beach becomes one of the top things to do. Although swimming can be a great form of relaxation and exercise and an excellent form of activity for those with musculoskeletal conditions, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) would like all swimmers to take proper precautions to avoid common swimming or diving injuries.

More than 237,500 swimming-related and 25,522 diving injuries were treated in 2012 in emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. By following a few safety tips many of these common back or neck injuries can be prevented.

EXPERT ADVICE
"Swimming and diving injuries are most common among children, 17 or younger," said A. Jay Khanna, MD AAOS spokesperson and orthopaedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. "For that reason, it's important to equip kids with the proper safety precautions at an early age, so that they can practice those tips well into adulthood."

Consider the following AAOS and ASIA safety tips to avoid swimming and diving injuries:

Diving tips:

>>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. 

Swimming tips:

>>Do not swim alone or allow others to swim alone. 

>>Make sure children are supervised at all times. Back yard pools should have a fivefoot minimum high fence that completely surrounds it.  

>>Swim only in supervised areas where lifeguards are present. 

>>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.

Retired orthopaedic surgeon Richard Siegel, MD who specialized in treating spinal injuries saw many diving injuries throughout his career and wrote a bone and joint health column on the Academy's Orthopaedic Public Awareness Campaign's site ANationInMotion.org. The column is entitled "Think Twice Before You Dive" and warns divers of the dangers of diving errors.