Written by Ashley Pastore, Customer Experience Manager at CORA Physical Therapy
When asked to write about “water safety,” my mind immediately went in countless directions. Do they mean boating accidents, storms and lightning, flooding, drowning, falling through thin ice, drinking contaminated H2O, slip and fall, acid rain (is that even a real thing?), and putting the toilet seat down? Suddenly water seemed like an extremely dangerous substance and it’s everywhere!
After careful consideration, and a very scientific poll on Instagram, I narrowed the most hazardous water concerns down to drowning and diving.
Water awareness, respect, and learning to swim saves lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years.”
As a parent, I know the list of things we need to teach our kids is extensive – never-ending, really. From looking both ways before crossing a street, to brushing teeth and washing hands (while singing songs to encourage the appropriate amount of time), to nutritional choices, homework, being kind, etc… But for too many parents, safety around water does not make the list and that needs to be addressed.
Oh, and learning to swim is not just for kids! Like mastering a new language, it does seem to come faster to young children, but swimming is a necessary skill for all ages. Along with the safety factor, swimming is a fantastic non-weight bearing cardiovascular exercise, good for balance, flexibility and strength, and provides mental health benefits.
Check out learn to swim resources through the American Red Cross, your local YMCA, ISR (Infant Swimming Resource), or the “Find a Team or Lessons” at usaswimming.org.
Swimming, the facts:
- Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger.
- Children can participate in swimming lessons before they can walk!
- Formal swimming lessons reduces the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88%.
Once able to swim, it is extremely important to make smart choices around water. Not even Olympic swimmers are 100% safe or immune to water-related catastrophes. Strong swimmers are more likely to take risks, overestimate their abilities, or swim alone.
Speaking of risky moves, according to the Shepherd Center, diving makes the list of the top five causes of spinal cord injuries with paralysis. 89% of individuals who get hurt diving are male and 11% are female. This is not because females are better swimmers, but rather because boys and men generally take greater physical risks than women. Many people who sustained a spinal cord injury from diving echo the same grief: “I thought I had good perception skills. I thought I could trust myself to stay safe.” The truth is that water often appears to be deeper than it is, which can lead to devastating errors of judgment even for experienced swimmers.
“The physics of what happens is unforgiving, as a diver can enter the water at 15 feet per second. Most of these accidents occur in water that is less than 3 feet deep,” explained Dr. Robert Bohinski in a PSA from Mayfield Clinic. “These accidents are completely preventable.”
Diving, the facts:
- Most individuals who are injured in diving accidents are between 20 and 29 years old.
- Diving is the fourth leading cause of paralyzing spinal cord injury.
- Most diving injuries happen in July (with June and August also posing high frequency).
- Pools and oceans claim 70% of diving injuries.
We can all agree swimming is one of the best ways to survive this oppressive summer heat. However, please remember learning to swim is a vital life skill and once you know how to keep your head from going under, do not aim it into a body of unfamiliar water. Let’s do everything we can to keep ourselves and others safe this summer in the water!