When people think of injuries that occur in or around pools, they typically think of drowning. However, spinal cord injuries are another risk that must be considered. Here’s what you need to know about spinal cord injuries and how to prevent them:
The spinal cord consists of the nerves that run along your back, and these nerves send and receive signals from the brain to the rest of the body, allowing us to move. If the spinal cord is injured, the signals are interrupted. Depending on where the injury occurs on the spinal cord, the damage could lead to partial or complete paralysis and even death.
The National Spinal Cord Statistical Center estimates that “the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 54 cases per one million people in the United States, or about 17,730 new SCI cases each year.” Swimming and diving accidents represent the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injuries, with diving accidents accounting for over 1800 cases each year. The majority of diving spinal cord injuries result in complete paralysis.
Spinal cord injuries can be prevented, so here are a few safety guidelines:
To prevent spinal cord injuries from occurring, always check the depth of the water before diving so you know you will not hit the bottom. The minimum depth of a pool for diving should be 9 feet as recommended by the American Red Cross, but some experts suggest no less than 10-12 feet. If you are diving in an unfamiliar pool, always give it a good inspection beforehand to make sure that there is nothing at the bottom of the pool that could cause injury.
Never try to judge a pool’s depth by just taking a glance at it. Sunlight can distort depth perception, so it is better to enter the pool to get a better feel of the depth. Never dive into a pool with poor lighting at night and avoid diving in if the water is murky.
Alcohol should be avoided when swimming. Do not drink alcohol near the pool, avoid swimming while under the influence, and do not dive into a pool if you have been drinking.
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