When it comes to swimming, knowing the depth of the water you are entering is vital to your safety. When water depth is not known or is ignored, it can result in serious trouble. In fact, being in water that is too deep or too shallow can cause devastating injuries. Today, let’s take a closer look at some pitfalls to avoid.

Too Shallow

To start, when the water depth in a pool or body of water is too shallow, the effect it can have on your health is undeniable. Mainly, an unprepared person could hit the bottom surface of the hard pool or jagged landscape of an ocean or lake. This type of impact can cause all sorts of head and neck injuries.

According to the “Review of Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Related to Diving and Diving Board Use,” published by the American Institutes for Research, more than 50 percent of all diving injuries take place in water that is four feet or less.

Getting in Too Deep

Often, there is a common misconception that if the water is deep, you’re in the clear. After all, if hitting the bottom isn’t a problem, it’s no big deal, right? Unfortunately, deep water doesn’t always mean safety.

You see, deep water can actually help to facilitate cold water shock. So, what does water depth have to do with temperature? Well, on a hot day, someone may not think twice about jumping into the water. However, in areas where the water is very deep, it takes the water additional energy to heat up. As a result, the water can be quite a bit colder than outside. As it turns out, this sudden shift of temperature can cause your body to cramp up and potentially go into cold water shock. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, this can be a serious and even life-threatening occurrence.

Aside from cold water shock, deep water can pose additional risks for non-swimmers. Particularly in natural bodies of water like a lake or quarry, the bottom of the water can become very steep very quickly. Without sufficient swimming skills to get yourself to land, one can easily drown.

Diving In

You may be thinking that the concerns of water depth do not apply to excellent swimmers.  Sorry, you’re not off the hook. The fact is, even professional swim athletes are subject to safety regulations. In an effort to reduce potential injuries, USA Swimming enforces a minimum water depth for competitive swim starts. Of course, USA Swimming is the national governing body of swimming in the United States that provides us with our monthly swim stats. So, they know what they’re talking about! Even if you aren’t an expert, you shouldn’t dive into a pool that is less than nine feet deep.

Water Depth While Swimming: Pools at Home

Now let’s talk about water depth in your pool. We touched on diving above, but it is important to still address this topic from the context of your home pool.

According to the report referenced above, most diving injuries occur from diving into natural bodies of water. However, 30 percent also happen in residential pools. The same report showed that more injuries – 64% – occurred in below-ground swimming pools than in above-ground swimming pools (36%).

One way to avoid these injuries altogether is to not install a diving board in the first place. Most residential pools don’t have a water depth of nine feet, so in those cases it is best to not risk it. If you still want a diving board, it is best to have the pool contractor confirm that the water depth of your pool is appropriate for such a device.

For the safety of all swim levels, you may choose to mark the water depth on the edge of the pool. This can help swimmers to recognize their comfort level. You can also cordon off the deep end with a safety float line.