Safe Swimming Tips Take Aim at 170,000 Annual Injuries

Swimming can pose hidden dangers if proper precautions aren’t taken, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Nearly 172,000 swimming-related injuries--such as fractures, strains, sprains and contusions--were treated in 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. With a bit of common sense, many of these injuries can be prevented.

"Regular swimming builds endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness," said Joseph Weistroffer, MD orthopaedic surgeon specializing in the spine and member of AAOS's Leadership Fellows Program. "One must remember to exercise caution while swimming, especially before diving or jumping into unknown depths of water, where many head, neck, and back injuries can occur."

AAOS offers these additional tips to make swimming as safe as possible:

  • Do not swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
  • Make sure children are supervised at all times.
  • Swim only in supervised areas where lifeguards are present.
  • Don’t attempt to swim if tired, cold or overheated.
  • An inexperienced swimmer should wear a life jacket in the water.
  • When swimming in open water, never run and never enter waves head first.
  • Don’t dive into shallow water.
  • Before diving, inspect the depth of the water to make sure it is deep enough for diving.
  • If diving off a cliff or other high point, make sure the bottom of the body of water is double the distance from which you’re diving. For example, if you plan to dive from eight feet above the water, make sure the bottom of the body of water, or any rocks, boulders or other impediments are at least 16 feet under water.
  • Only one person at a time should stand on a diving board. Dive only off the end of the board and do not run on the board. Do not try to dive far out or bounce more than once. Swim away from the board immediately afterward to make room for the next diver.
  • Refrain from body surfing near the shore since this activity results in many cervical spine injuries, some with quadriplegia, as well as shoulder dislocations and humeral fractures.
  • Carefully monitor weather conditions before and while swimming. Avoid being in the water during storms, fog or high winds. Do not swim in a lake or river after a storm, if the water seems to be rising or if there is flooding.
  • Develop a plan for reaching medical personnel who can treat swimming-related injuries. Anyone watching young children near the water should learn CPR and be able to rescue a child.

For more information on swimming safety, click here.

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