"U.S. Kids Have More Than 6,500 Diving Injuries Per Year."
"Diving injuries estimated at 6,500 kids per year."
Those were the headlines prompted by a 2008 study published in Pediatrics magazine — the first that used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
6,500 kids a year landing in the emergency room because of a diving-related injury. That's a statistic that will make you sit up and take notice.
And it did make Chuck Leach, President of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA], sit up and take notice.
"They're dangerous. There's no question," Leach told Board members during their December 17 Work Session.
"You read this kind of data . . . it just seems to me that we've got to remove those diving boards."
And, based on that reaction to the data, the Board plans to vote, during its Thursday, January 14 Work Session, on whether to eliminate the higher of the two diving boards at the Northside pool.
But is that a correct reaction to the data? Is the risk really all that great?
It's unfortunate when any child is injured, of course. But, beyond that, what does this study tell us about the risks associated with diving boards?
According to the study's authors, all associated with either Ohio State University and its college of Medicine or Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, the average annual injury rate represented by those 6,500 emergency room visits is 8.4 injuries per 100,000 children under the age of 19.
What does that mean for Seven Lakes? According to the US Census bureau, Seven Lakes had an estimated 1,066 residents under the age of 19 in 2014.
If we do a little math we’ll discover that 8.4 to 100,000 is the same as 0.09 to 1,066.
In other words, the expected average annual injury rate for Seven Lakes kids using the diving board would be 0.09.
That's nine-hundredths of a child injured in a given year.
That's kind of hard to visualize, so let's turn it into something we can understand.
What that 0.09 child injured per year means is that we could expect one injury that might land a kid in the emergency room every eleven years.
One injury every eleven years.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What kind of injuries are we talking about?
Fifty-eight percent of those logged in the Ohio study were lacerations or soft-tissue injuries — that is, cuts and bruises. Sixteen percent were sprains or strains, and only eleven percent were fractures.
It's likely some stitches were involved; the study doesn't say. But fewer than five percent of injuries resulted in a hospital stay.
So, we're thinking about getting rid of a diving board that, as Board members acknowledged in their Work Session conversation, kids really enjoy, because we might have one minor injury in eleven years.
Lets put that risk in perspective. The risk is 8.4 in 100,000. So, here are some things with an incidence of 10 in 100,000 — that is, a little more common than a kid getting hurt on a diving board:
• Being killed by a grizzly bear.
• Being killed by an airplane crashing into you.
• Dying from a tree falling on you.
• Dying from a blood transfusion.
• Being in a landslide.
• Having a baby with Downs' syndrome.
• That headache turning out to be a brain tumor.
Bottom line: The risk presented by diving boards is ridiculously small.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, kids are way more likely to be injured in other ways:
• 394 per 100,000 in cycling accidents.
• 168 per 100,000 through poisoning.
• 72 per 100,000 injured as pedestrians.
• 829 per 100,000 as occupants of a motor vehicle.
• 8.4 per 100,000 for diving boards.
If the risk of being injured while diving from a diving board is so small, why would the SLLA's insurance broker suggest getting rid of the diving boards?
Insurance companies are in the business of managing risk. The less risk they bear, the more money they get to keep. So, even tiny bits of risk are worth getting rid of.
The key question to ask is whether, if the SLLA removes the diving board, will its insurance premiums will go down?
The answer is "No."
In other words, the insurance company would be happy to have you reduce their exposure, by even a trivial amount. But they aren't going to pay you to do that.
The diving boards at the Northside pool, in any case, represent a minuscule risk — certainly not a risk that warrants spoiling Summer fun for the nearly one-quarter of SLLA residents who are under the age of 19.
The SLLA Board needs to delay any decision on removing diving boards — or eliminating lifeguard service — until they have hosted a Town Hall Meeting in order to hear from the families most affected.