"If anyone else had tried to move me, I would have been paralyzed," explains Burns. "I feel like I have been given a second chance. I want to help others 'think first' before diving into a pool or lake to prevent these types of life-changing accidents. I know I'm in a very fortunate minority and hope my story inspires both adults and children to be more careful."
Nearly 1,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year in the U.S. when persons, predominantly males aged 15-25 years, dive into swimming pools or natural bodies of water. The vast majority of diving injuries occur in 6 feet of water or less.
1. ALWAYS know the depth of water before you dive. When in doubt, test the water before diving by wading or walking into the water feet first. Remember "feet first, first time." 2. Don't dive into shallow, open water. Three out of four diving injuries happen in lakes, rivers, oceans and other natural bodies of water. Be aware that water depths are affected by tides, droughts, floods, etc. These conditions can also mean dangerous underwater debris. 3. NEVER swim or dive alone, always do it with a buddy. Brooke Burns avoided catastrophic injury because a friend was nearby and called for medical help. 4. Never dive into an aboveground pool or into the shallow end of a pool. ThinkFirst recommends water be at least 11 feet deep for safe diving from the side of a pool or deck. 5. Don't dive from rooftops, balconies, ledges, fences, retaining walls, ladders, slides or other pool equipment. 6. To dive safely, hold your head and arms up and steer with your hands. Keep your arms extended over your head during the dive. 7. Don't dive off the side of a diving board - dive straight ahead and test the diving board for its spring before using. 8. Don't run and dive. Don't do a back dive. 9. NEVER drink and dive. According to ThinkFirst, more than half of all serious diving incidents occur when the diver has been drinking. Diving requires clear thinking to judge distance and depth, monitor speed and direction, and coordinate body movements. 10. Always make sure children are supervised by an adult while diving and swimming.
If you suspect that someone has sustained a spinal cord injury from a shallow water dive, contact 911 immediately. Approach the victim carefully. Hold the victim's head in alignment with his or her back and gently turn them onto their back so they can breathe. If possible, have others assist you. Keep the victim's head and back stabilized and support them with something sturdy (pool equipment, ring buoy, oar, etc.) Most important, do not move a diving victim from the water until the emergency medical team arrives, as movement can cause further damage to the spinal cord.
"We are so thankful that Brooke Burns fully recovered from her diving incident and is partnering with ThinkFirst and the North American Spine Society to help others avoid life-threatening diving injuries," said Joel Press, MD, NASS president and medical director at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Center.
"As summer nears, it's critical that parents talk to their children and teens about the real risk of diving injury and share these important tips," added David Cavanaugh, MD, ThinkFirst chair and neurosurgeon in Shreveport, LA.
The North American Spine Society (NASS) is a multidisciplinary organization that advances quality spine care through education, research and advocacy. NASS members are MDs, DOs and PhDs in 22 spine-related specialties including orthopedics, neurosurgery, physiatry, pain management and other disciplines. Nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, chiropractors, physical therapists, practice administrators and other allied health care professionals involved in spine care are also represented in NASS as affiliate members. For more information on NASS or to find a spine specialist in your area, please contact 1-877-SPINE-DR or visit www.spine.org.
Established in 1986, the mission of the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation is to prevent traumatic injuries among young people by focusing on injury prevention education, research and public policy. The Foundation's multi-level approach to injury prevention combines education with community wide safety programming and legislative initiatives. More than 200 national and 60 international ThinkFirst chapters help to deliver the ThinkFirst message, "Use your mind to protect your body." For more information about the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, log onto www.thinkfirst.org.
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