Summer swimming season brings with it swim parties, competitive swimming and diving competitions and simple poolside recreation. Philadelphia pools, whether city or privately owned can be dangerous too, especially when diving. Even competitive Bucks County divers must learn to check the water depth directly beneath the diving board to insure safety, thus avoiding back surgery.
Though at first a pool might seem like a safe environment for diving, dangers lurk that are not always obvious. The physical pool design is a factor in many diving accidents and while some are inherently safer than others, no Philadelphia area one is completely safe.
Woody Franklin, diving coach and FINA certified judge writes that if a diver trains in a 15 foot deep pool but then moves to a shallower depth in only 12 feet of water, then, “the bottom will come much quicker than what they are used to.” He concludes that diving then requires that quick adjustments be made. Franklin cites that without a strong somersault save for example, it’s possible the diver might sustain an injury. To avoid back surgery, it is imperative that adjustments be made while diving.
From a physical standpoint, diving accidents requiring back surgery are often attributed to insufficient water depth. The most typical diving accident is when a person’s head hits the bottom, causing head, neck and back injuries. If you think about it, water slows the diver down so depth of the water really matters and makes a difference in injury severity.
Knowing what is safe is where the twist comes in. There is disparity in what is considered “standard water depth” for diving height among authorities. Mark Green of the National Recreation and Park Association explains that since water decreases downward motion, that there is a point where “downward motion ceases.” Green says the point where this happens is between 12 and 15 feet, although he notes that others purport an absolutely safe diving depth is 18 to 20 feet.
The problem with this is that few people in Philadelphia or Bucks County have either the space or the cash to build and maintain a pool with a diving area so deep. So, Green continues, “This leaves open the question of the water depth required to create an acceptable risk.”
Here’s how the authorities stack up on the minimum recommended water depth for diving:
• American Red Cross – 3 feet
• Australian Diving Association – over 9 feet
• FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur) – 3 feet
• National Foundation for Spinal Health –
o 3 ½ feet for any diving
o 3 ½ – 4 feet for dives from 18″ platforms above the water
o 4 or more feet for over 18″ to 30″ platforms above the water
• SportSmart Canada – when depth is twice diver height
These standards are not based on scientific evidence, but are merely standards. Divers who wish to avoid back injury and possible surgery should exercise caution.
Bucks County and Philadelphia area swimmers should be aware that diving accidents sometimes happen due to the shape of a pool. Collision occurs either at a side or bottom contour. These are tricky for divers to differentiate without exterior depth markings.
Finally, the artistic style that is popular of today’s pools may make for interesting shape, but leave little or no margin of error for a diver.