What Injuries Do Competitive Divers Face?
Monday, October 30, 2017

Competitive Divers Face High Risk of Back, Shoulder and Other Injuries

MAYWOOD, IL –  Competitive divers face a high risk of injuring their shoulders, back, elbows, wrists and other body parts, according to a paper by a Loyola Medicine sports medicine physician.

"Even when a dive is perfectly executed, injuries can occur, whether traumatic or from overuse," Nathaniel Jones, MD, wrote in Current Sports Medicine Reports, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

A springboard diver hits the water at up to 19 mph and a 10-meter platform diver at up to 37 mph. After hitting the water, their velocity decreases by more than 50 percent in a fraction of a second.

"These incredible velocities and impact forces are thought to be large contributors to competitive diving injuries," Dr. Jones wrote. "With such forces, injuries can occur not only in the setting of a dive gone wrong but also more commonly secondary to an accumulation of exposures to repetitive forces."

Competitive divers on average train 40 hours per week. Springboard divers average 100 to 150 dives per day and platform divers 50 to 100 dives per day. Doing so many dives puts the athlete at risk "for multiple individual injury opportunities and at times may lead to overuse injuries," Dr. Jones wrote.

Divers are at further risk for injuries from dry-land training such as gymnastics, strength and conditioning, trampolining and dance.

With the possible exception of shoulder injuries, back injuries appear to be the most common diving injuries. One study found that after age 13, there's a 45 percent chance of having back pain within a year. Another study found that divers are at risk for back problems at a younger age than the general population.

Less common problems include perforated eardrums from landing on the ear; corneal abrasions; concussions; and anxiety and psychological stress from learning complex dives and the pressure to perform.

Many divers diet in order to be lean and muscular, but restricting calories also can lead to low energy, fatigue and an increased injury rate. The emphasis on body type for better performance and optimal appearance also puts divers at higher risk for eating disorders.

Divers continue to test the limits of what their bodies can do, thereby increasing the potential for injuries. But research on diving injuries is sparse. Possible areas for future research include studying the large forces that suddenly dissipate when divers enter the water and the repetitive exposure to these forces, Dr. Jones wrote.

Dr. Jones is a primary care and sports medicine physician and an assistant professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The title of his paper is "Competitive Diving Principles and Injuries."

About Loyola Medicine

Loyola Medicine is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) in Melrose Park, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,772 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. The medical center campus is also home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. GMH is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments in a convenient community setting. Loyola Medicine is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems with 94 hospitals in 22 states.

About Trinity Health

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 93 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.