Diving

01 Overview

Diving involves jumping headfirst into a pool from a platform or springboard or into a body of water such as a lake or river. Acrobatic stunts such as twists, pikes, and tucks are often performed while diving. The sport has been a feature of the Summer Olympic games since 1904 and is governed locally by the BC Diving Association. While there is risk for physical injury in diving, there is evidence that these injuries can be prevented.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Shoulder injuries are common among male divers.

Hand or wrist injuries are common among competitive female divers. These injuries usually happen upon making contact with the water.

The trunk is a common area of injury among female divers. Many injuries occur due to incorrect positioning of the body upon making contact with the water.

Spinal cord injuries in diving are primarily neck injuries resulting from the diver hitting bottom or an obstacle. Spinal cord injury occurs primarily during recreational or unstructured diving, rather than during supervised practice.

Head or face injury, including concussion, and can occur from making contact with the diving board, water, bottom or an obstacle.

02 Injury Statistics

Diving injuries vary depending on whether the sport is performed at a recreational or elite level, and the level of competition. Common diving injuries are strains to the shoulder and trunk. During the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, 8% of diving athletes sustained an injury.

Lack of knowledge of the water depth and surroundings pose a significant risk of injury among unstructured and unsupervised divers.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

For competitive divers, age and shoulder flexibility can increase the risk of lower back pain. For recreational divers, a number of risk factors related to safety, such as supervision, visibility, and signage, may increase the risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury.

  • Age

    Among 12 to 17-year-old elite divers, the risk of lower back pain among both males and females can increase with age, which may be related to growth spurts.

  • Supervision

    A lack of adequate supervision increases the risk for a diving injury, and is more likely to occur in non-training or unstructured diving, as compared to competitive diving.

  • Diving Technique

    The risk of injury is higher with improper technique, including the aim of the diver, the speed of the dive, and the positioning of the head and arms. Injury can occur if the diver hits the pool wall (or other obstacle), hits bottom at speed, or dive with their head exposed or held in an improper position. Hitting bottom at a speed of 0.61 metres per second or greater can dislocate the neck, and a speed of 1.22 metres per second can crush the vertebrae in the neck.

  • Visibility

    Limited underwater visibility makes it difficult to determine water depth or the presence of submerged objects or people. Adequate lighting can help to increase underwater visibility.

  • Legislation

    Lack of appropriate building codes in pool design and lack of legislation around proper training of pool owners increase the risk of diving-related spinal cord injury. A lack of signage describing water depth or a lack of diving safety signage increases the risk of dangerous diving.

  • Shoulder Flexibility

    Limited shoulder joint flexibility among male divers can increase the risk of lower back pain. This can occur when the athlete hyperextends the lower back to compensate for limited shoulder mobility.

  • Water Depth

    Water less than 1.2 metres deep increases the risk of injury due to the diver hitting bottom. Many spinal cord injuries occur during the first dive in a pool that the individual has not previously visited.

  • Diving Board

    The degree of control and amount of force when entering the water from a diving board can be affected by bouncing on the board or by leaning too far forward. When performing a reverse dive, where the diver rotates backwards toward the diving board, the diver is at risk of head injury from hitting the diving board.

  • Alcohol

    Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for spinal cord injury during diving.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. However, it is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in diving.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Supervision

    The presence of a lifeguard can reduce injury. Approximately 94% of spinal cord injuries in diving occur when there is no trained lifeguard present.

    Training

    Learn proper diving techniques, safety protocols, and about training load. Risk of head and neck injury is reduced when the hands are held together, thumbs locked, and arms extended beyond the head. Diving with more air time (maximized flight distance), a low entry angle, and steering technique are important.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Incorporate balance and strength conditioning to reduce your risk of injury.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to diving.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are a common injury in diving, so it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for divers and their parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Parachute Canada has two diving injury prevention programs: “Dive Smart” and “Sudden Impact.” These programs provide education on the importance of spinal cord injury prevention in and around water, and have been shown to change students’ opinions about checking the depth of swimming pools before diving. These resources include a Leader’s Guide and can be purchased on DVD or viewed on the Parachute Canada website.

    “Dive Smart” is targeted at an elementary school students age 6 to 12 years and in Grades 1 to 6.

    “Sudden Impact” is designed for high school students 12 years of age and older, and in Grades 7 to 12.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Competitive diving is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Training

    Educate divers on proper techniques, safety protocols, and training load. Risk of head and neck injury is reduced when the hands are held together, thumbs locked, and arms extended beyond the head. Diving with more air time (maximized flight distance), a low entry angle, and steering technique are important.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Incorporate balance and strength conditioning into your training programs to reduce the risk of injury.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to diving.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Supervision

    The presence of a lifeguard can reduce injury. Approximately 94% of spinal cord injuries in diving occur when there is no trained lifeguard present.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are a common injury in diving, so it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Parachute Canada has two diving injury prevention programs: “Dive Smart” and “Sudden Impact.” These programs provide education on the importance of spinal cord injury prevention in and around water, and have been shown to change students’ opinions about checking the depth of swimming pools before diving. These resources include a Leader’s Guide and can be purchased on DVD or viewed on the Parachute Canada website.

    “Dive Smart” is targeted at an elementary school students age 6 to 12 years and in Grades 1 to 6.

    “Sudden Impact” is designed for high school students 12 years of age and older, and in Grades 7 to 12.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Competitive diving is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

    Facilities
    The American Red Cross Swimming and Diving guidelines require a minimum depth of 9 feet of water below the tip of the diving board in a standard public pool. Most diving-related spinal cord injuries occur in residential pools where the maximum depth is less than 9 feet. Adequate signage regarding water depth and restriction of dives in shallow water should be posted.

    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for implementing diving programs in secondary schools.

    Learn more about diving facilities in secondary schools.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Supervision

    The presence of a lifeguard can reduce injury. Approximately 94% of spinal cord injuries in diving occur when there is no trained lifeguard present.

    Training

    Encourage training on proper techniques, safety protocols, and training load. Risk of head and neck injury is reduced when the hands are held together, thumbs locked, and arms extended beyond the head. Diving with more air time (maximized flight distance), a low entry angle, and steering technique are important.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Encourage coaches and teachers to incorporate balance and strength conditioning into your training programs to reduce the risk of injury.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to diving.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are a common injury in diving, so it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The American Red Cross Swimming and Diving guidelines require a minimum depth of 9 feet of water below the tip of the diving board in a standard public pool. Most diving-related spinal cord injuries occur in residential pools where the maximum depth is less than 9 feet. Adequate signage regarding water depth and restriction of dives in shallow water should be posted.

    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for implementing diving programs in secondary schools.

    Learn more about diving facilities in secondary schools.

    Education
    Parachute Canada has two diving injury prevention programs: “Dive Smart” and “Sudden Impact.” These programs provide education on the importance of spinal cord injury prevention in and around water, and have been shown to change students’ opinions about checking the depth of swimming pools before diving. These resources include a Leader’s Guide and can be purchased on DVD or viewed on the Parachute Canada website.

    “Dive Smart” is targeted at an elementary school students age 6 to 12 years and in Grades 1 to 6.

    “Sudden Impact” is designed for high school students 12 years of age and older, and in Grades 7 to 12.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Competitive diving is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing diving injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to divers, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to diving to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Encourage divers and coaches to incorporate balance and strength conditioning into their training programs to reduce the risk of injury.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to diving.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are a common injury in diving, so it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The American Red Cross Swimming and Diving guidelines require a minimum depth of 9 feet of water below the tip of the diving board in a standard public pool. Most diving-related spinal cord injuries occur in residential pools where the maximum depth is less than 9 feet. Adequate signage regarding water depth and restriction of dives in shallow water should be posted.

    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for implementing diving programs in secondary schools.

    Learn more about diving facilities in secondary schools.

    Education
    Parachute Canada has two diving injury prevention programs: “Dive Smart” and “Sudden Impact.” These programs provide education on the importance of spinal cord injury prevention in and around water, and have been shown to change students’ opinions about checking the depth of swimming pools before diving. These resources include a Leader’s Guide and can be purchased on DVD or viewed on the Parachute Canada website.

    “Dive Smart” is targeted at an elementary school students age 6 to 12 years and in Grades 1 to 6.

    “Sudden Impact” is designed for high school students 12 years of age and older, and in Grades 7 to 12.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Competitive diving is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.