When Dr. H S Chhabra, Chief of Spine Service & Medical Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre was presented with yet another case of paralysis due to diving and hitting the floor of the swimming pool, it raised concerns in his mind. It brought into sharp focus that there is a trend that many youngsters adopt without estimating the repercussions. The team of doctors who attended to one such case was led by Dr. H S Chhabra,
21 year old Deven was presented at ISIC with paralysis beneath the neck. He was immobile and was brought into the hospital on a stretcher. His parents complained that he was a regular swimmer and during his visit just that morning he dived at the shallow end of a pool without estimating the depth and he hit head on the floor of the pool. When his friends noticed that there was no apparent movement just after his dive, they rushed to his end and hauled him out of the pool. Deven had no movement in his limbs and they rushed him to the hospital.
Dr. H S Chhabra, Chief of Spine Service & Medical Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre says, “A minor injury can damage the spinal cord. In the current times, we have seen youngsters into adventure sports coming with damage to their spinal columns confining them to the wheel chair. In some cases, such as this one, diving at the shallow end of the pool can result in paralysis. In India, we do not yet have the system where there are trained professionals who can monitor activities by amateurs and be readily available in the event any crisis occurs.”
Most high impact spinal cord injuries, such as from motor vehicle accidents, high falls or sports injuries, are seen in young, healthy people usually in the age groups between 15 to 35 years.
Risk factors include diving into shallow water, driving accidents, falls or other sports activities like horse riding, pole vaulting etc. In the summer months, many youngsters jump into shallow water of water bodies to escape the heat and injure their cervical spine.
Dr. H S Chhabra says, “In diving accidents, including high diving, injuries are mostly located in the cervical spine, generally at the fifth and the sixth vertebra. Very often the resultant paralysis is permanent. The loss of function caused by long-term paralysis can be managed through a comprehensive rehabilitationprogram. The only advice I can give to youngsters is – Do not dive in water less than twice your height; Don’t drink and drive; Don’t dive into unfamiliar water; Don’t permit or indulge in horseplay while swimming or diving. Keep yourself safe in any water activity.”