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Surprising Statistics about a Favorite Summer Sport


Most of us enjoy taking a swim in a pool or lake on a hot summer day. Many of us have grown up as members of a community or neighborhood pool, or near a natural water source like an ocean, and have had water recreation and sports as part of our lives since we were very young. Because swimming is so popular and such a part of our national culture, these statistics are all the more startling: according to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S. From 2005-2014, an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings occurred annually in the U.S., with another 332 people dying each year from boating-related incidents. One in five drowning victims were children fourteen and younger, and for every one child who died, another five received Emergency Department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Of the children requiring emergency care, 50% of them required hospitalization and further care; nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage resulting in long-term disabilities.


Children ages 1-4 are most at risk, especially when swimming in home swimming pools. Sadly, drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 years old than any other cause except birth defects. Conversely, half of fatal drownings in adolescents and adults 15 and older occur in natural water settings (lakes, rivers and oceans).

Alcohol is a huge risk factor in fatal drowning deaths among adolescents and adults. In this demographic, alcohol use is involved in 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, in approximately one-fourth of Emergency Department visits, and in approximately one in five boating-related deaths.

Another risk factor is having a seizure disorder: drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death in people with seizure disorders. The bathtub is the site of the highest drowning risk.


Research has shown that one of the best ways to prevent unintentional drowning deaths is to have good swimming skills. Although this seems obvious, a surprising number of people report not knowing how to swim, with African Americans disproportionately more represented in this regard than other demographics. The local Red Cross and YMCA, as well as community pools often provide swim lessons at reasonable prices, and participating in these at any age is worth the time and investment.

A second way to prevent unintentional drowning deaths is learning CPR. With water-related injuries and accidents, seconds count. Knowing CPR can make all the difference. Again, the local Red Cross and YMCA often provide these courses either at no cost or at reasonable prices, and they are well worth the time and investment.

Other critical ways to prevent unintentional drowning deaths include constant supervision, particularly of children 14 and under. Adolescents should use the buddy system when swimming, and they—and adults—should avoid alcohol use when swimming and boating. Boaters should always wear life jackets; research shows that wearing life jackets would cut boating deaths by as much as 50%.

People who have a home pool should have four-sided fencing around the pool to prevent children from entering the area when adults are not present. Also, the pool and deck should be kept clear of toys after use so that kids are not tempted to wander in and around the pool when it is unsupervised.


If you or a loved one has suffered a near-fatal or fatal drowning accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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