* Guest entry from Nicole Robicheau, Public Affairs Advisor, Ottawa 

Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie will compete for a gold medal at the London Summer Olympics. But he almost didn’t get to. On June 12th, the two-time Olympic silver medalist slammed his head on the diving board while practicing an inward 3½ somersault. He received a concussion, and split his head open so badly he needed surgery.

We’re not all Olympic hopefuls like Despatie, but many of us dive into various bodies of water to cool down in the hot summer months. If we aren’t careful, we could suffer the same, or worse injuries than he did.  Before diving, it’s important to think about how you’ll enter the water, and make safe choices before you do so. Diving is the leading sports-related cause of spinal cord injuries. Many diving incidents leave the diver completely paralyzed from the neck down. Despatie was lucky, but not everyone is.

Here are some tips to think about before taking the plunge:  

  • In familiar or unfamiliar water, always enter feet-first the first time, to make sure the water is deep enough, and to find out if there are any hazards under the surface.
  • Diving head first into water should be avoided unless you are properly trained and 100 per cent sure the water is deep enough.
  • Most in-ground home pools and hotel pools aren’t safe for diving (even those with diving boards) because the deep end is often too shallow.
  • Make sure the diving area is large enough and deep enough for the intended dive. It should be twice your height for the whole dive.
  • Only dive in clear, unobstructed water.

 Click here for more safety tips and information on Red Cross water safety programs.  

And good luck Alexandre!