Quebec sees spike in diving injuries paralyzing swimmers, especially young men
MONTREAL -- It’s been well documented that there’s been an increase in drownings this summer.
What isn’t as well known is another type of tragedy that emergency-room doctors are now trying to warn the public about: many diving injuries, including some causing paralysis.
“People dive in, don’t know necessarily the pool and hit their head at the bottom of the pool, which causes a rapid flexion or extension of the neck and fractures at the cervical spine,” explains Dr. Eric Piette, who leads the trauma team at Sacre-Coeur Hospital.
This month alone, five people were rushed to Piette’s ER after diving accidents, four of them under the age of 30.
They were left paralyzed from the shoulders down. All had dived head-first into waters they didn’t know well. Most were young men, Piette noted.
“They feel a little bit more invincible, they tend to be a little less cautious, particularly when they drank a glass or two or when their buddies put them to the challenge,” he said.
The problem, according to Quebec’s Lifesaving Society, is that backyard pools are just not made for diving. But of course, many people are stuck at home right now and that’s their only option for swimming.
Swimmers need to remember that a pool needs to be at least twice as deep as the diver is tall in order to be safe for diving.
“Spinal injuries resulting from a dive are catastrophic injuries,” says François Lepine, the program director at the Lifesaving Society.
He agrees with Piette that this year is unusual, saying his organization has never seen as many diving accidents as this year.
"It's male, and between 18 years old and 30 to 35 years old,” Lepine said. “Sometimes there’s peer pressure—sometimes your friend wants you to dive in the swimming pool or dive from a structure around the swimming pool.”
Just don’t, says Lepine. Unless you’re at a public pool that has been designated as deep enough, it's just too big a risk—don't take that risk, and jump in feet first.