Diving Accidents Common Among U.S. Kids

ByABC News

Aug. 5 --

MONDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The fun of jumping into a pool turns into trauma for about 6,500 adolescents a year who end up in emergency rooms for diving-related injuries.

That's an average of one injury an hour, a 16-year study finds, with children aged 10 and 14 most likely to get hurt.

"More than 80 percent of the dive injuries occurred from a dive height of less than or equal to one meter. So, that is not the highest dive, this is usually from the lowest order or the edge of the pool," said lead researcher Lara McKenzie, an assistant professor at Ohio State University Medical School.

The report was published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

In this study, McKenzie's team used data from the National Electronic InjurySurveillance System, a part of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The researchers found that about 111,000 dive-related injuries to children under the age of 19 were treated in emergency departments from 1990 through 2006. "That's a really high injury rate," McKenzie said. "This really suggests the need for increased prevention efforts to lower the risk of diving-related injuries."

Of the total number of injuries, about 5 percent were serious enough to require hospitalization, McKenzie said. The majority were treated and released.

"There's a lot that can be done to make diving a safer recreational activity or sport," McKenzie said.

The most common injuries (58 percent) were cuts and bruises. The leading causes of injuries were hitting the diving board or platform. This type of injury was dramatically increased when divers tried a flip handstand or backward dive, the researchers reported.

About 70 percent of the injuries were from headfirst dives, about 18 percent were from jumps or cannonballs, and almost 12 percent from flips or handstands, McKenzie said.

Among the things that can be done include educating divers about jumping into shallow or murky water and having visible depth indicators around the pool. In addition, there needs to be more education and training on proper diving technique, McKenzie said.

"Having a lifeguard or other supervision present is really important," McKenzie added.

Dr. Judy Schaechter, director of Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Miami University Miller School of Medicine, provided new data about the extent and types of diving accidents.

"What is most interesting to me as a pediatrician with a mind for prevention is what may also be among the most predictable findings of the study, that diving injury peaks substantially during the summer months and that boys are far more likely to be injured than girls," Schaechter said. "The summer month exposure will surprise no one. Males are more affected by nearly all types of injury, particularly unintentional injury."

Parents should be aware that while from summer to summer their children are getting bigger and bolder, they are not necessarily getting better at diving or water sports in general, Schaechter said.

"We tend to teach children well to stay in the shallow end when they are small," Schaechter said. "We do less of a good job teaching about the risks of diving, or marking dive-safe zones as they grow."

More information

For more on child safety, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., assistant professor, Ohio State University Medical School, Columbus; Judy Schaechter, M.D., associate professor, pediatrics, and director, Injury Free Coalition for Kids-Miami, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; August 2008, Pediatrics

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