Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic / Water Safety Expert::::
For the past quarter century, high diving boards (3-meters; ten feet) have been disappearing from public and private swimming pools across the country. This swimming pool staple, which so many middle aged and older Americans learned to love while they were children, is no longer available for their children and grandchildren.
Statistics indicate that springboard diving is a very safe sport. That is because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), USA diving and many other water safety agencies have safety training programs for their coaches and follow strict depth and distance requirements to provide safe “diving envelopes” in the water for divers/jumpers. So what’s the problem?
Far too many three-meter (high dives) were placed in recreational settings without the assistance of qualified coaches and springboard diving agencies. Consequently, numerous falls to unprotected concrete decks below have occurred around the country resulting in death or paralysis. Hence, high dives are quickly becoming dinosaurs.
In a Penn State study published in Athletic Business Magazine, highly trained divers were simply asked to step off the three-meter diving board and land safely, feet first in the water ten feet below. The average elapsed time for all subjects was approximately half a second. This illustrates that accidental falls to the deck are just as fast and as a result, extremely difficult to supervise. Therefore, if existing three-meter diving boards are to remain in place, or if new high dives are to be installed, they must be engineered for safety by making them “fall-proof.” What other activities allow minor children to climb unsupervised up a nearly vertical ladder over hard concrete with bare feet in a wet environment? Children can no longer climb to heights on playgrounds or in water parks, but unfortunately there are still some pools that allow unsupervised and untrained young children to participate in this extremely dangerous activity.
There are safer alternatives for three-meter diving boards:
Older three-meter diving board installations call for extraordinary efforts to make them safe. Existing three-meter diving boards constructed and installed in recreational settings to old standards must either be renovated or removed to provide a safe opportunity for young people to be introduced to the thrill of springboard diving. All three-meter diving boards, regardless of the environment they are in, must be regulated and supervised aggressively. Hitting the concrete pool deck below three-meter diving boards has resulted in death, catastrophic brain injuries and many other traumatic injuries.
Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic / Water Safety Expert at DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.