Beach season is upon us, and many Rhode Islanders are looking forward to enjoying all that the Ocean State has to offer.

However, it's important to avoid injury while open water swimming. Every summer, orthopedic physicians regularly treat injuries that occur as a result of diving and body surfing mishaps. While these activities can be exhilarating, prioritizing safety is paramount.

Types of Diving Injuries

Diving into shallow water or colliding with submerged objects poses significant risks to the head, neck, and spine. Injuries can range from concussions to more severe conditions like brain bleeds, spinal fractures, paralysis, and even fatality.

Safe Diving Tips

Safe diving requires a comprehensive understanding of water conditions. Diving into shallow water is never safe, and divers should thoroughly assess the water's depth and identify any potential hazards, such as submerged rocks, whenever feasible. Although diving feet first is relatively safer, it still carries significant risks, including potential injuries to the feet, ankles, and lower legs. It is imperative to avoid diving headfirst into water unless you are entirely certain of its depth.

Diving from heights, such as from a bridge or a boat, is not recommended. Be sure to have a swimming partner and remain sober while enjoying the water.

What is a safe depth for diving?

The American Red Cross recommends a depth of at least nine feet for safe diving.

Body Surfing Safety

Similarly, body surfing can carry risks. When entering a wave, shield your head by leading with your arms and keeping your hands positioned in front of you to lower the impact of the ocean floor, sandbars, or other submerged objects. Additionally, be mindful of other swimmers and surfers, and always maintain a safe distance while remaining aware of your surroundings to minimize the risk of colliding with other people.

Practicing diligent water safety and understanding the dangers of open water are essential when engaging in water sports such as diving and body surfing.

If you do have concern about an injury you sustained to your head or neck while diving, please seek medical attention right away.

Eren O. Kuris, MD

Eren O. Kuris, MD

Dr. Eren O. Kuris is a spine surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute. Dr. Kuris specializes in orthopedic spine surgery. He is also an assistant professor of orthopedics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and the director of spine trauma, tumor, and infection within the department of orthopedic surgery.