Diving injuries account for 10 per cent of all admissions to spinal injury units in Australia, nine per cent in the United States and 10 per cent in Toronto-area hospitals.

Research indicates that diving is the most common cause of spinal injury among all the sports and recreational activities in Ontario, and snowmobiling is the second. The most common type of diving injury is damage to the spinal cord.

The majority of diving injuries are sustained in private, recreational and unsupervised settings. The more you know about safe diving techniques, the less likely you are to be injured. 

Safety tips

Do:

  • Stay sober in aquatic environments. 
  • Dive only in water that is deep enough to support the size, weight and skill level of the diver. The depth of the water should be twice the height of the diver
  • Dive in the deep end of a pool; the shallow end is not safe for diving. 
  • Know the water depth before diving. Always go into the water feet first the first time. 
  • Dive only in well–marked and well supervised environments that are designated for diving.
  • When diving from a diving board, always dive from the end and not the sides. 

Do not:

  • Dive into unfamiliar bodies of water. The hazards of diving in unknown waters are extreme. Always check for submerged objects such as rocks, tree trunks, and other debris before diving. 
  • Dive or swim alone. Bring a buddy or have a qualified guard present. 
  • Dive into an aboveground pool – they are not designed for diving. 
  • Run and dive. 
  • Dive from retaining walls, ladders, slides or other pool equipment. 
  • Slide down slides head first. 

Dive only using techniques that can reduce the risk of injury, such as

  • Enter the water shallowly and surface quickly after diving to decrease the depth of the dive.
  • Aim to enter the water at least three metres from the edge of the pool or shore to decrease the depth of the dive.
  • Keep hands together and arms extended above the head throughout the dive to protect the head an neck against impact in the event that the diver strikes the bottom.

Tips for pool owners, lifeguards and aquatic managers

  • Teach safe diving techniques.
  • Clearly mark water depths. 
  • Post signs warning of water depth and risks involved with diving.
  • Be knowledgeable about rescue techniques and lifesaving measures.
  • Provide appropriate supervision to those using the pool, dock, and environs.
  • Prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol in the aquatic environment – alcohol is a major risk factor for catastrophic diving injury.
  • Install and use adequate lighting, especially if the swimming area is used after daylight hours.

Risk factors to consider 

  • Supervision: research indicates most diving injuries occurred in unsupervised settings and without lifeguards present. 
  • Alcohol: research indicates alcohol was a factor in 56 per cent of diving injuries where information about alcohol intake was available. If you are a host and diving is part of the activities, or you are a companion of someone who is diving, intervene if someone wants to drink and dive.
  • Water depth: research indicates 95 per cent of diving injuries occurred in water depths less than 2.4 metres (eight feet). 
  • Lack of depth indicators and warning sign: an injury is more likely to occur in pools that do not have depths posted or signs warning of the dangers of diving.
  • Lack of diving knowledge: more knowledge about safe diving techniques decreases the risk of injury. 
  • Deep dives: these dives increase the likelihood of striking the bottom of the swimming area. 
  • Short distance flight: this type of dive increases the likelihood of striking the bottom of the pool. 
  • Higher angle of entry: dives with a higher entry angle increase the likelihood of the diver striking the bottom. 
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