Whether it's at the Olympics or at the neighborhood pool, diving is one of the fastest growing sports in this country.
Every day millions of people do it and every four years during the Olympics, billions of people watch it. So it might surprise you that researchers are just now delving into the dangers of diving boards.
Chelsea Davis will tell you that competing at the highest levels of diving takes persistence. Day after day, dive after dive. No matter how hard she works to get it right even an experienced diver like Chelsea knows how quickly it can all go wrong. At the World Championships in 2005, she hit her head on the diving board and landed in the glare of the media.
"My nose was broken in about ten places, and I fractured my cheek bone and I sprained my neck," she said.
It was one terrifying example of something that happens every day, more often than many of us might think.
"Every year in this country, approximately 6,500 children are treated in emergency departments for diving related injury," said Gary Smith, MD at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
On average that's an injury an hour in the U.S., every hour of every day that most pools are open. According to a study just published in the journal Pediatrics, kids between the ages of 10 and 14 are the most likely to get hurt diving, and boys are taken to the hospital twice as often as girls. Experts say it's not the high risk, high dives that are to blame.
"More than 80 percent of the dive injuries were from a dive height of less than or equal to one meter. So, that is not the highest dive, that's not a platform dive, this is the lowest dive height available at the pool," said Lara McKenzie, PhD, Nationwide Children' Hospital.
A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that the most common injuries while diving were to the head, neck, and face.
Findings revealed that an estimated 111,000 diving-related injuries to persons under the age of 19 were treated in emergency departments from 1990 through 2006. Lacerations and soft tissue injuries were the most common diagnoses, representing more than 58 percent of all injuries.
Collision with the diving board or platform was the leading cause of injury -- the likelihood of collision with the diving board dramatically increased when a diver attempted a flip, handstand or backward dive.
"There is a need for increased prevention efforts to lower the risks of diving-related injuries among children and adolescents," said study co-author Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA, principal investigator in CIRP at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "The recent growth of the sport of diving, coupled with the increasing complexity and difficulty of dives, has resulted in a greater potential for both competitive and recreational diving-related injuries."
"Based on our findings, the largest age group of injured divers was 10- to 14 year-olds," said. "Although this group made up the largest number of injured divers, 10- to 19-years-olds were more at risk for an injury to the extremities. Boys were two times more likely to experience a head or neck injury or a fracture."
Recommended strategies for preventing diving-related injuries include educating divers about jumping into shallow water from the pool edge; placing visible depth indicators around the pool; constructing soft bottom pools; and removing obstacles from lakes, rivers and oceans. The presence of a lifeguard or trainer, as well as teaching proper diving techniques, could reduce the overall number of diving-related injuries.
"Parents, pediatricians, coaches, lifeguards and trainers need to be aware of the types of injuries seen during recreational and competitive diving, as well as the risk factors," said McKenzie.