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Think First - Feet First

23 Jun 2021 3:37 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

Think First – Feet First

Beware of diving into shallow or unknown waters

By: Brian Elliott

          Diving is the fourth leading cause of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) among males and the fifth leading cause among females according to the Shepherd Center (a not-for-profit hospital based in Atlanta, Georgia).  I can still remember that Friday back in 2005 fairly well.  I got off of work and met up with some friends at a nearby lake to hang out.  A couple of hours later I was on a life-flight to Toledo after I dove off the pontoon boat.  In the following weeks, months, and years I have had to learn how to live as a person with a complete spinal cord injury

         According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, an estimated 11,000 spinal cord injuries occur in the United States each year800 of those spinal cord cases per year are caused by diving, with 90% resulting in paralysis (American Academy of Neurology).  One simple tip for staying safe and avoiding joining me in the SCI Diving Club:

  •  Feet first – ANYTIME you are entering a body of water for the first time.  This allows you to know what is under the water surface such as how deep it is and if there is something such as a log or sandbar that was not visible from above.  One exception is the deep end of a pool that is clearly visible to the bottom, labeled for diving and filled with water to the proper amount.

          Put in simple terms, learn what you are getting into before potentially making a fatal or tragic error.  I personally guarantee that a leg injury of some sort will be less costly (physically and financially) than any SCI.  Diving accidents can also happen when diving into oncoming waves, as is commonly done by people in the oceans.  Although, this can also happen to people that do the same thing in Michigan's Great Lakes or when waves throw people around under the water as seen in the photos at the bottom of the page.

          The unfortunate truth is that diving accidents are the most avoidable of the SCI.  People are going to lakes, rivers, pools, and more to keep cool as the weather heats up.  While these are great ways to relax and recreate, please do so responsibly!  Michigan provides some great water opportunities and we want you to enjoy yourself.  The best way to stay safe and avoid joining the SCI Diving Club is to remember and share “Think First-Feet First”.

Read a first-hand experience with a diving SCI

2 SCI mechanisms of injury are shown with color illustrations. on the left is a woman under water beneath a wave. her head and right arm are on the ground, her right arm is extended behind her back. her legs and other arm are above her and the wate is forcing them in the opposite direction, creating a rotational injury of the spinal cord. a red circle highlights a spot on her lower back and an inside look shows this movement caused fractured vertebrae along with twisted spinal cord. The image on the right is a man that has hit the ground with chin, bu his legs are still up in the air and are out of the shallow water. A red circle highlights the back of neck as it is hyperextended back toward the shoulders resulting in a ruptured ligament and spinal cord.2 mechanisms of injury are shown in color illustrations. on the left a woman has dove into shallow water and hit the top of her head on the bottom. and her legs are straight above and still out of the shallow water. there is a red circle highlighting the back of her neck as a vertical compression. the impact shows a compression fracture and compressed spinal cord injury. The image on the right is a man tat is under water below a wave that has forced him into a forward somersault. his head is on the ground but his body is above him and rolling over. a red circle highlights the back of his neck and hyperflexion. His head and chin are being forced to his chest resulting in a compressed fracture and compressed spinal cord with stretched ligament


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