Water Safety and Concussions
How to Prevent Concussions in the water?
- Don’t dive into water that you don’t know the depth. Be very careful in lakes and rivers, where there are often rocks and the depth can change abruptly.
- Don’t dive into shallow water
- Always use proper technique when diving
- Be conscious of how close you are to the wall when swimming. We often see injuries from children and teens swimming backstroke or doing a flip turn and hitting the wall.
- Be sure to wear proper gear when playing water polo.
- Wear a life jacket whenever being pulled behind a boat and ensure a responsible person is driving
What water activities can I do with a concussion?
If you have been diagnosed with a concussion it is important to talk to your provider about what activities you can or can’t do. In general, do not do any activity that puts you at high risk of injuring your head again. Easy, relaxing, activities can be beneficial to concussion recovery. Gentle swimming, relaxing near water, and fishing can be a great activities while recovering. If your child is younger, and won’t be able to swim quietly without being active and wild in the pool, then it would be best to avoid this activity. While recovering from a concussion, we would not recommend doing any activity behind a boat (tubing, wakeboarding, water skiing, etc) as these activities have a high risk of head injury. We would also not recommend diving or jumping into water.
What if swimming makes my concussion symptoms worse?
As with any activity that worsens symptoms, it is very important to stop and take a break. Resting when symptoms worsen can help the recovery process. Often, symptoms getting worse is the body’s way of saying ‘you are doing too much, I can’t heal’. Usually taking a break will help symptoms improve and then your child can try that activity again if they would like. If rest does not improve symptoms, call your provider.
What’s the big deal about breath holding?
It is common for children to compete with one another to see how long they can hold their breath underwater. They also compete with themselves to see how far the can swim underwater or how long they can hold their breath. This is a very dangerous game and it is important to discuss the dangers with your kids.
Breath holding can cause drowning. Most people hyperventilate before going underwater to try to hold their breath longer, which causes a decrease of carbon dioxide in the body. Carbon dioxide levels are what drives the desire to breath; as CO2 levels rise it triggers the need to take a breath. Hyperventilating before going underwater will decrease the breathing drive which can cause blackouts or loss of consciousness. If the child is underwater when this happens, this can cause drowning, especially if they are alone or not being supervised. This can happen in older children who are strong swimmers, and may not be supervised by an adult. Remind your kids to not swim alone.
If your child is recovering from a concussion, breath holding can impact the healing process. Breath holding deprives the brain from oxygen, which is necessary for brain healing. Breath holding underwater is always dangerous, but can be even more so if they are recovering from a brain injury.