Kessler News

Before You Take the Plunge...

Kessler Offers 10 Important Tips on Water Safety


June 23, 2009

West Orange, NJ – Summer is here and along with days spent at the pool, lake or ocean comes the increased risk of water-related injuries. In fact, diving is among the leading causes of spinal cord and traumatic head injuries in the United States today.

"Diving is arguably the most dangerous thing a person can do in water," says Steven Kirshblum, MD, Medical Director and Director of Spinal Cord Injury Services at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, West Orange, NJ. "Injuries to the head, neck and spinal column are serious and can result in paralysis, or even death."

Diving accounts for more than half of all sports-related spinal cord injuries. Each year thousands of people suffer spinal cord injuries and head trauma from diving into water that is too shallow. About 90% of diving-related accidents occur in water that is eight feet deep or less, and a majority of these accidents take place at home in above- or below-ground pools.

Whether you are a pool owner or guest, go to the lake or beach, safety is a priority. Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, one of the nation's leading rehabilitation hospitals and one of only 6 federally designated Model Systems for the treatment and research both traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, offers these Top 10 Water Safety Tips:

  • Don't swim alone. Ideally, a lifeguard or someone trained in water safety should always be present.
  • Never drink and dive. "Drinking impairs an individual's judgment and slows reactions," explains Kirshblum. "Nearly half of all diving accidents resulting in a serious injury involve alcohol consumption."
  • If you are a pool owner, be sure to have clearly marked depth indicators around the entire pool. Post "No Diving" signs – and enforce that rule!
  • Watch your guests. More than 90% of injuries occur to visitors, not owners.
  • Never dive into an above-ground pool and be careful around ladders and other equipment.
  • Always check the depth of water before entering lakes. Levels may be deceptive. Be sure that there are no rocks or debris below the surface.
  • Enter the water at lakes and ponds feet first to avoid injury.
  • Never dive into the ocean. It's difficult to see what's under the surf, particularly sand bars, and tides constantly cause the ocean sands to shift.
  • Even if areas are marked as being safe for diving, do not dive if your trajectory will place you in less than nine feet of water. When diving from a board, the water should be deeper than 12 feet.
  • Educate children. Safe water behaviors should be taught at an early age so children can make smart decisions when involved in water activities.



  • More than 12,000 spinal cord injuries (SCI) occur each year.
  • Motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of SCI (34%), followed by falls, acts of violence and sports-related injuries.
  • Diving is the leading cause of all sports-related SCI.
  • Men – the majority of whom are between 16–30 years of age – account for 86% of all diving/water-related SCI.
  • An estimated 75% of diving-related SCI result in tetraplegia (quadriplegia), the paralysis of all four limbs.
  • Lifetime expenses for an individual with SCI, including healthcare, living costs and lost wages, total millions of dollars...with average first year expenses topping $500,000.

Sources: National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center; Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Prevention, Care & Cure.


For more information, contact Gail Solomon at 973.243.6879 and [email protected]

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