How safe are your diving habits?

Topics: National, Water Safety
September 06, 2012

How safe are your diving habits?

When it comes to swimming, safe habits both in and out of the water can prevent injury and give peace of mind to parents, caregivers and companions alike. However, if these precautionary practices don't become integrated into a standard routine, it can be difficult to reap the benefits that they offer.

Programs like Sudden Impact/Dive Smart, which was created by ThinkFirst yet is offered by the Canadian Red Cross, help educate youth and adult swimmers about the dangers of diving and how to build safe water habits. In addition to revealing the common causes of diving-related injuries, the programs strive to leave participants with better skills and strategies for avoiding emergencies.

For those with children, a personal flotation device (PFD) can keep young ones afloat if they lack strong swimming skills. By fastening a properly-fitted PFD onto kids each time they enter the water, parents are building a routine that ensures water safety and helps them grow accustomed to the feel and use of the device.

While water safety is important where children are involved, adults are also vulnerable to incidents that can be life-threatening. Regardless of one's age, people should never enter the water alone. In addition, people should check the weather before heading outdoors to swim and should be mindful of docks, rocks and logs jutting out along the water's surface that could be harmful.

But above all, one of the most important aspects of water safety is diving. As the leading sports-related cause of injury to the spinal cord, poor habits while diving can leave swimmers exposed to greater risk than ever.

Just how serious are diving incidents? More than 95 per cent of injuries don't happen in deep areas of a pool or lake - they occur in less than five feet of water, and usually without any warning signs. While injuries can vary in scope, some result in the condition known as quadriplegia, which can cause complete loss of movement in the legs and arms.

Consuming alcohol or other mind-altering substances while swimming can exacerbate these risks. Even more startling, more than 50 per cent of diving injuries and deaths are linked to drug and alcohol abuse.

To avoid dangerous scenarios altogether, swimmers should always enter water for the first time with their feet to test the depth of the swimming area. The bottom of the area should be large and deep enough to accommodate a swimmer - if it isn't, diving should be avoided. As many incidents occur during the first visit to a swimming area, these steps can help counteract that trend by allowing swimmers to be more familiar with the space. 

To access more water safety advice and learn more about the Sudden Impact/Dive Smart program, visit the website or your local Red Cross office. 

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