The shoulder is the most common injury site in competitive diving

diving shoulder injuriesCompetitive diving has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, up until recently, very little research has been carried out to understand the potential injuries involved with this admired and much-loved sport.

Now, a new paper written by a sports medicine physician from Loyola Medicine, has revealed some of the risks competitive divers face. Among them, the shoulder was found to be one of the most common injury sites in the sport.

Both training and competing pose shoulder injury risk

The paper, which was published within the Current Sports Medicine Reports, discovered diving shoulder injuries could occur due to both training and competing. Most worryingly, it revealed that even when a dive is executed perfectly, shoulder injuries could occur.

Perhaps the largest contributors towards the risk of shoulder injury in competitive diving, are impact force and velocity. Divers using a 10-metre platform can hit the water at a staggering 37mph. Once they hit the water, their velocity can reduce by as much as 50% in less than a second.

Such high velocities and impact force pose a risk both during the dive, as well as over time due to repeated exposure. It is thought competitive divers train for around 40 hours each week. Springboard divers can carry out as many as 150 dives each day. While they tend to hit the water at a much lower speed of 19mph, over time due to how many dives they carry out during training, shoulder injuries can occur.

Injuries can even occur during on-land training

While competitive divers are most at risk of shoulder injuries in the water, they’re also at risk of developing an injury on-land too. Strenuous training to condition the body such as gymnastics, trampolining and strength training all increase the risk of injury.

Add to that the strict diets divers often follow, and the risk is increased further due to fatigue and low energy levels. It also increases the incidence of eating disorders within the sport.

This new research helps divers, their trainers and physicians, to better understand the risks involved. However, it also highlights the need for further research into repetitive exposure to the large forces which have been shown to disappear when the diver hits the water.

What it does show for now, is that competitive divers need to be careful of overtraining and the importance of using the correct diving techniques.

Can competitive diving injuries be prevented?

As mentioned earlier, competitive divers are at risk of injury even if they execute a perfect dive. However, there are ways to potentially lower the risk of shoulder-related diving injuries.

Strengthening the shoulders and back is one of the best ways to prevent against dislocation and other common injuries. It is also important for divers to avoid overtraining and to ensure they are choosing a reliable, experienced and responsible trainer.

If a shoulder injury does occur, immediate treatment should be sought. In severe cases, surgery may be required to prevent injury reoccurrence. However, the earlier it is treated, the less invasive the treatment will need to be and the less likely it is to impact a diver’s career.