With summer in full swing and many families headed to the pool and beach, we're reminded that diving accidents are a common cause of spinal cord injuries. Males between the ages of 15 and 25 are the most common victims of diving injuries, 90 percent of which result in paralysis. Dr. Cristina Sadowsky of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute offers ways to prevent diving injuries with five things to keep in mind before you dive in and cool off this summer.
* Before you dive, check the depth of the water by entering feet first. Always remember "feet first, first time."
* Never dive in shallow water. Water should be at least twice your height in depth before you consider a dive.
* Be especially cautious of open water, such as lakes, rivers and oceans, where water depths are affected daily by tides, droughts and floods. In natural bodies of water, you also don't know what dangerous debris might be just under the surface.
* Never drink and dive. To dive, you need to be able to think clearly to judge distance and depth, monitor speed and direction, and coordinate the movements of your body.
* When you do dive, dive safely. Hold your head up and keep your hands linked and your arms extended over your head. Although you may not prevent a minor injury, your arms will protect your head and neck from direct impact.
Call 911 if you believe a swimming partner has sustained a spinal cord injury. Stabilize the victim's head in alignment with his or her neck and back, and gently rotate the person onto his back to ensure he can breathe. Then, wait for the emergency medical team to arrive. It is very important that a diving victim is not moved from the water without proper equipment, as that movement can cause further damage to the spinal cord.