Despite the apparent risk, the statistical incidence of injury in supervised training and competition is extremely low.
The majority of accidents that are classified as 'diving-related' are incidents caused by individuals jumping from structures such as bridges or piers into water of inadequate depth. Many accidents also occur when divers do not account for rocks and logs in the water. Because of this many beaches and pools prohibit diving in shallow waters or when a lifeguard is not on duty.
After an incident in Washington state in 1993, most US and other pool builders are reluctant to equip a residential swimming pool with a diving springboard so home diving pools are much less common these days. In the incident, 14-year-old Shawn Meneely made a "suicide dive" (his hands at his sides - so his head hit the bottom first) in a private swimming pool and became a tetraplegic. The lawyers for the family, Jan Eric Peterson and Fred Zeder, successfully sued the diving board manufacturer, the pool builder, and the National Spa and Pool Institute over the inappropriate depth of the pool. The NSPI had specified a minimum depth of 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) which proved to be insufficient in the above case. The pool into which Meneely dived was not constructed to the published standards. The standards had changed after the diving board was installed on the non-compliant pool by the homeowner. But the courts held that the pool "was close enough" to the standards to hold NSPI liable. The multi-million dollar lawsuit was eventually resolved in 2001 for US$6.6 million ($8 million after interest was added) in favor of the plaintiff. The NSPI was held to be liable, and was financially strained by the case. It filed twice for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and was successfully reorganized into a new swimming pool industry association.
In competitive diving, FINA takes regulatory steps to ensure that athletes are protected from the inherent dangers of the sport. For example, they impose restrictions according to age on the heights of platforms which divers may compete on.
- Group D (11 & under): 5 m
- Group C (12/13 year): 5 m & 7.5 m
- Group B (14/15 year): 5 m, 7.5 m & 10 m
- Group A (16/18 year): 5 m, 7.5 m & 10 m
Group D divers have only recently been allowed to compete on the tower. In the past, the age group could compete only springboard, to discourage children from taking on the greater risks of tower diving. Group D tower was introduced to counteract the phenomenon of coaches pushing young divers to compete in higher age categories, thus putting them at even greater risk.
However, some divers may safely dive in higher age categories to dive on higher platforms. Usually this occurs when advanced Group C divers wish to compete on the 10 m.
Points on pool depths in connection with safety:
- most competition pools are 5m deep for 10 m platform and 4m deep for 5m platform or 3m springboard. These are currently the FINA recommended minimum depths. Some are deeper, e.g. 6m for the diving pit at Sheffield, England.
- diving from 10 m and maintaining a downward streamlined position results in gliding to a stop at about 4.5 – 5m.
- high standard competition divers rarely go more than about 2.5m below the surface, as they roll in the direction of the dive's rotation. This is a technique to produce a clean entry.
- attempting to scoop the trajectory underwater against the rotation is extremely inadvisable as it can cause serious back injuries.
- hitting the water flat from 10 m brings the diver to rest in about 1 ft. The extreme deceleration causes severe bruising both internal and external, strains to connective tissue securing the organs and possible minor hemorrhage to lungs and other tissue. This is very painful and distressing, but not life-threatening.
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