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Diving Off Diving Boards Is Dangerous For Kids

Prevention strategies

So, where do we go from here? First, we have to recognize that change will not occur overnight. While clearly we need to improve the conditions of diving and decrease these injury numbers, it will take a bit of time and discussion among diving experts to figure out the best way to do that. Now that they have this data in hand, however, they will be able to modify their current programs and teaching styles in a way that is more developmentally appropriate and in a way that matches what kids are doing. Now that we know where the injuries are occurring and how they are occurring, we start there to intervene: the ages most at risk with the activities most at risk.

Until then, we have to be very vigilant with the 10-14 year olds. I'm not surprised the injury rate is highest in this group. This group doesn't always know their limits. Their bodies are still growing so they tend to not be as coordinated as older kids. And, they tend to be a bit impulsive and try to mimic older kids. The more "teen-like" in age, the more impulsive they can be.

Parents need to monitor what their kids are doing and I suggest talking to them about not engaging in the flips, handstand dives and backwards dives that put them at greatest risk of injury. If they are on a diving team and doing those dives under supervision, that is a different story. But, I would not recommend that kids under 14 attempt these risky dives without proper training.

Diving coaches need to look closely into training and figure out if this group should even be attempting these dives. It may very well be they are not ready. Until that can be determined, I'd like to see public pools use this study to develop safety guidelines so kids are not allowed to do these dives. How about just a simple forward dive for all??

Okay to dive, but dive smart!

So, this study doesn't say "don't dive". What this study tells us is we have to have our kids "dive smart." At the moment, we don't know what diving smart really is but we sure know what it isn't - this study made that loud and clear. I don't like to be an alarmist but sometimes we have to start with the alarm ringing and make a few changes before it completely silences. When child health is at risk, especially involving water and kids that are propelling themselves in the air, let's not tempt fate.  

Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD is a pediatrician living in the Boston area and the founder and Editor-In-Chief of www.Pediatricsnow.com.