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Accid Anal Prev. 2008 Mar;40(2):787-97. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2007.09.017. Epub 2007 Oct 8.

Risk factors and prevention for spinal cord injury from diving in swimming pools and natural sites in Quebec, Canada: a 44-year study.

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Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University, Canada.



Diving is the most frequent cause of spinal cord injury (SCI) from recreation and sport in Canada. This study was done to identify risk factors for SCI from diving in the province of Quebec.


An interview survey was done for a target population of 203 subjects with a SCI from diving treated in the two specialized rehabilitation centers in Quebec during 1961-2004. Telephone interviews of consenting individuals were used to collect pertinent personal, equipment, and environmental factors for each incident.


Response was 44% (89/203); 92% were male and 85% <35 years old. Only 37% were aware prior to injury of the risk of SCI from diving, and only 33% had received water safety training. Swimming pools were the site of 51% (n=45) and natural bodies of water for 49% (n=44). 87% (n=39) of pools were single-unit home pools and 57% (n=26) above-ground. Depth indicators were absent for 100% of above-ground and 74% of in-ground pools. For SCI in in-ground pools, 63% resulted from striking the up-slope between deep and shallow ends. For dives at natural sites, a dock or wharf was the most frequent location, 36% (n=16). In 52% of pools and 79% of natural sites, depth was <1.4m (4.6ft). Signs prohibiting diving were absent in 96% of above-ground and 89% of in-ground pools. Alcohol was reported in 47% of SCIs.


The target for prevention of diving SCI is male youths and young adults. Above-ground pools are too shallow and small for diving. Deep ends of many in-ground pools are excessively shallow and short since many SCIs resulted from striking the up-slope. Prevention of SCI from diving needs to focus on education of potential victims, pool vendors and manufacturers, and regulations for safety norms in private pools. Water safety should highlight diving as a high-risk activity, and emphasize that most home pools and natural sites are unsafe. Safer evidence-based pool designs and more effective warnings need to be implemented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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