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Avoiding Spinal Injuries While You’re Swimming

A Florida man recently learned the hard way that while swimming may be a fun and generally healthy pastime, it also poses serious safety risks in certain situations. This is especially true with regard to spinal injuries, which affect close to 11,000 people each year in the United States. The biggest risk for these types of injuries while swimming is diving headfirst into pools and natural bodies of water whose depths are not suitable for such activity.

The aforementioned Florida man sustained his injuries not while diving, however, because body-surfing was the activity that brought him crashing headfirst into the ocean floor, leaving him paralyzed. Described by his daughter as a superhealthy vegan who rode his bike 20 miles a day, the 75-year-old victim was eventually able to move his arms and legs but has yet to recover completely.

Simple prevention tips

The good news is that almost all spinal cord swimming injuries are preventable. In swimming pools, the best advice is not to dive into the water. Most recreational pools are simply not deep enough to reduce the risks associated with the type of diving in which most bathers engage. In the ocean, the United States Lifesaving Association makes the following recommendations:

  • Always walk into the water.
  • Never enter headfirst into unknown waters.
  • Don’t jump from cliffs, bridges, jetties, or piers.
  • When body-surfing, protect your head and neck by keeping a hand out in front of you.

What to do when there’s an injury

In the unfortunate event that an injury occurs, a lifeguard and 911 should be contacted immediately. It is also imperative not to move victims, specifically their head and neck, apart from any motions necessary to prevent drowning. Seek emergency care immediately if victims experience difficulty breathing or weakness or tingling in their arms and legs.

Finally, in certain circumstances, a swimmer’s injury may have been caused by someone else’s negligence. To determine if negligence was a factor, a competent legal professional must assess the facts of the case.

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