Neck Injuries at the Beach


As Canadians, we love to go to the beach in the summer, and to beach locations on holiday. Beaches, surfing and diving in open water are all known to have increased risks of neck injury. Here are some factors to consider before you head out into the waves or cliff jumping and diving.

One of the most common surf zone injuries is cervical spine injury (CSI). In a recent study from Australia, 14% of the confirmed CSI injuries occurred at the beach. Local residents and visitors were equally injured however, males were by far more likely to have CSI (87% male). Women tended to have a higher rate of spinal injury.

Who is at risk of CSI at the beach?

The study concluded that risk factors for CSI at the beach include sex, smaller wave heights, and outgoing tides. Shallow water diving was particularly dangerous for surfers and females.

  • Surfers are more likely to sustain CSI than swimmers
  • 28% of the injuries occurred to surfers in shallow water diving
  • Only 2% of CSI injuries occurred to swimmers in shallow water diving
  • More women were likely to be injured shallow water diving than men
  • Visitors were more likely to be injured swimming 
  • Locals were more likely to be injured surfing
  • The majority of CSI occurred in shallow wave heights (0.75-1.25 m waves)
  • More injuries were reported when the tide was outgoing

In a Canadian context, cliff diving is more common than surfing as there are limited opportunities to surf. Diving and swimming in open water and in rivers are associated with higher risks of drowning. Cliff diving and jumping are extremely dangerous. Many people enjoy the thrill of the jump and often ignore safety signs and warnings.

Cliff jumping/diving is traumatic to the body. As height increases so does the danger. At 10’ the body is travelling at 27km/h and at 20’ you are travelling at 40 km/h when you strike the water surface. Even with a clean entry these impact speeds can cause spinal compressions, bone fractures and collapsed lungs. In a bad entry, a catastrophic injury is not uncommon.

 Cliff jumping and diving are inherently dangerous due to:

  • The presence of unknown objects below the water surface
  • Ever-changing water depths and conditions
  • Slippery conditions at or on the way to the diving/jumping point

Practice safe swimming this summer. Swim at beaches with lifeguards and avoid inherently dangerous activities like cliff diving. If you are injured in the water due to someone else’s negligence you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Deutschmann Personal Injury and Disability Law for a free initial consultation.

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