Summertime Diving Injuries Keep ER Docs Up at Night

As we move into the heart of the summertime, Dr. Josh Bell is holding his breath, because he knows what is coming his way, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Dr. Bell, who is a former competitive swimmer, is a surgeon at TSAOG Orthopaedics in San Antonio, and one of his specialties is treating swimming and diving accents, which he says happen too frequently, and are entirely preventable.

Some 35,000 Americans, mainly kids and young adults, are rushed to emergency rooms each summer suffering from sometimes catastrophic injuries caused by diving.

He says diving injuries can be so dangerous because the head is moving downward, which mans, unlike spinal fractures which happen lower in the back, when the neck breaks, the best that can happen is the person is permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

"When the level of the injury is such that you can be paralyzed from the legs down or from the chest down, but the level of the injury can be high enough in the body that it stops your breathing," he said.

He says there are a couple of tips that parents should insist their kids know before diving in any body of water.

"The height of the structure you are coming off of, the water needs to be at least two times that depth," he said.

If you're diving off a flat surface, like the side of a swimming pool, don't dive head first into water that is less deep than twice your height.  A 6 foot male, for example, should not dive head first into water that is less than 12 feet deep.

Secondly, he says never, ever, jump or dive into any water where you can't see to the bottom.

"The biggest concern that we have is water that is not clear," he said.  "A non swimming pool like a lake or a river."

Dr. Bell hopes that this summer is the summer when he sees fewer patients suffering from life changing diving injuries.

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