Smack That


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Freshman year of high school, I decided to join the diving team. I had 13 years of gymnastics background behind me and diving was second nature to me. I loved the feeling of soaring through the air then piercing the water. Seems like a safe and beautiful sport, right?

ONJ_divingin_v2_orig.jpg

Wrong. Competitive diving can be extremely dangerous if not practiced properly. Junior year I attempted my first front two and a half (that's two forward flips with a dive to enter the water). I opened up out of the flip literally half a second too early and landed parallel to the water, smacking the entire front side of my body. It sounds like the typical belly smacker. The height I fell from and the velocity at which I hit the water was so great, I ended up with a concussion. Yes, I got a concussion from landing wrong on WATER.

Divers flip through the air at a velocity of 20-30mph and the average height of a dive is 10-12 feet above the water. If a dive is not executed perfectly, the effects of the entry can be quite painful and sometimes cause serious injuries. A bad entry is referred to as a "smack" and may cause welts and bruising. If this impact can cause welts on the body, imagine the damage it does to the brain.

The only study I could find related to head injuries and diving was done on NCAA Division 1 divers. The problem with this study is that it excludes the divers in high schools and younger training facilities, which don't have the same dry land equipment for training. The study classifies diving as a safe sport as long as there is dry land training, something I did not have in high school.

All in all, divers make the sport look easy, but a small mistake could lead to serious injury.  Do you think diving is a dangerous sport?

Springboard_Mishap.jpg

5 Comments

After reading your blog I wondered why water 'feels like concrete' and can harm you so badly when hit at a high velocity. After doing some research, I came across a website called "Ask a Physicist."
http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/07/q-why-is-hitting-water-from-a-great-height-like-hitting-concrete/
Here, the physicist states that anything can feel like concrete when hit at a high enough velocity. For example, the meteors that enter Earth's atmosphere almost always shatter immediately because they hit a different medium at such a high velocity. The sensation you felt when you hit the water could happen with anything in any medium, even a gas!

i believe diving is a pretty dangerous sport and sometimes people take it too lightly. the first time i ever heard of water being like concrete is watching the movie Guardian, im not sure if you have seen it but it says a fall from above 30 feet into water can feel like hitting concrete. Im not sure why professional diving leagues dont take more precautions to fix this problem. Im not sure if you have ever seen this but people that practice big jump skiing do it into the water, but jets blow air into the water to break the surface tension so there is no "smack" when the skiiers hit the water. You can see in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zgl2yC931I where the water is white is where the jets are blowing so you can fall safely. Do you think the olympics and other leagues will take precautions to protect divers?

Actually, some precautions are taken to create a safer environment for Olympic divers. There is a small pump of water which shoots out from underneath the boards that creates small ripples in the water where the diver will land. This is so if a diver were to end slightly off center, the water wouldn't be completely flat and "cement-like". Also at all diving meets, not just the Olympics, the audience is required to stay silent with no flash photography to ensure a diver's full concentration with minimal to no distractions. Although, at an Olympic level there usually isn't much injury because these divers have been practicing the dives they are performing for years. The more comfortable a diver is with a dive, the less like he/she will mess up that dive and enter the water in a dangerous manner. There has only been a few major injuries in diving at the Olympic games. This is because the divers typically perform dives that their body knows how to perform and perform perfectly.

I've always been amazed my the divers on the Olympics wondering how they know exactly when to enter the water and such and found this blog really interesting. As a cheerleader I've had to deal with my fair share of criticism that cheerleading is completely safe and totally can see where you are coming from. People often downplay the severity of many situations and the fact that you got a concussion from hitting the water speaks pretty clearly to how risky diving is. I found a different article from 2008 prefacing the dangers of diving on Good Morning America, you may want to look at it. Also with the recent fall of the cheerleader Paige at Penn State it made me think how her fall from 5 stories is very similar to a diver who faults and hurts themselves. Many people who've jumped from bridges in attempts to commit suicide but have survived have described the fall as if they were hitting pavement. Because of this I would think that more precautions would be taken to get the water flowing instead of being still in an attempt to minimize this pavement like fall.

Here is the Good Morning America link: http://www.ivaw.org/resources/ptsd

Watching the divers in the Olympics is one of my favorite events. They make it look so graceful and easy. But I have heard that if you enter the water the wrong way, it could be like jumping off of a diving board headfirst onto concreate. OW! I hear the trick is to enter the water perpendicularly with your fist in front of you, but personally I can barely stay afloat so this seems incredible to me. I looked it up and apparently the record high dive is set at 176 feet. CRAZY right?!

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