“It’s the strong swimmers who drown.” Did you read that thinking, ‘this can’t possibly be true?’ One would assume that if one is a good swimmer, they would have the know-how to prevent themselves from drowning.
Even though you usually only hear about small children drowning, the facts tell a different story. Many drownings occur among strong swimmers in much different ways than you would think. I wanted to find out how someone with proper swimmer skills could possibly drown.
According to theWorld Health Organization, drowning accounts for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Although swimming lessons are highly recommended for children, the risks of drowning do not disappear.
Overall, engaging in water activities can put even the strongest swimmer at risk. Below we will expand on the outlined reasons why good swimmers can drown.
As a trained swimmer, I can attest to the fact that swimmers are proud of their skills. We know every stroke, can perform every turn, and we are super fast. We would never think of drowning as a possibility.
Even those with minimal swim training can usually swim a few laps around the pool without feeling too tired. The thought doesn’t usually cross their mind that they could be at risk in the presence of water.
Being confident in your abilities is usually a good thing. We want to be proud of what we can do.
The problem is that the things we are doing don’t always seem risky. The moment we believe we are immune to drowning is when our judgment can become clouded.
These are some of the ways that overconfidence can lead to drowning:
Though swimming lessons are considered very advantageous, they can still give people a false sense of security. Both children and adults need to know their limits.
Another golden rule is,you should never swim alone, no matter how good of a swimmer you are — more on that below:
When a swimmer is considered to have the skills necessary to swim well, most assume they do not need much (or any) supervision. Both unsupervised swimming and swimming with improper supervision can be dangerous.
Swimming alone poses obvious risks. But, if you are a seasoned swimmer, you may not think twice about those risks. Overconfidence carries over to the mentality of, “It could never happen to me.” This mentality can be particularly dangerous if there is no one there to save you in the event of an accident.
Nobody plans for an accident. You could hit your head, have a seizure, blackout while swimming underwater… and, if you choose to swim alone, no one will be there to help.
This is similar to sending your child to go swimming without lifeguard supervision. Sure, there may be other people around, but they will not be watching your child.
On the other hand, a good swimmer doesn’t have to be alone to drown. In fact, busy swim areas can actually pose a greater risk compared to less busy places. In situations like this, people are easily distracted. On top of that, it can be difficult to sight your friend or family member among everyone else who is swimming.
Parents (myself included) can be guilty of allowing their child who swims well, to swim without proper supervision. Yes, you are with them at the pool, but you are not actively watching them the whole time.
You could be sitting right there talking to a friend while your back is turned to your child. You assume your child is not in any danger… you just saw them swimming laps with ease, after all! But children play, and accidents happen.
Children aren’t the only ones we need to watch out for. We may never even think to supervise our adult friends as they swim. Why would we? If they say they can swim, and you see them swimming, you may think you don’t need to keep an eye on them.
But, adults aren’t immune to accidents and any type of drowning situation could happen very quickly. Especially because drowning is usually a very quiet event… generally not the thrashing around we see in the movies. And when people aren’t carefully watched while partaking in risky behavior, the likelihood increases.
“Many people underestimate the risks and overestimate their ability, or that of their children in water…even those with good swimming skills may not be safe due to other factors, such as unfamiliar waters, water hazards, medical emergencies, alcohol or drug use, or other unsafe conditions.” –Water Safety USA
Risk-taking behavior is probably the biggest reason strong swimmers drown. With that being said, it is probably not going to surprise you that nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male, according to theCDC. This isn’t because females are better swimmers: it’s because boys and men generally take greater physical risks than women.
This study found the presence of drowning was highest in males in their late teens to mid-twenties. This is a time when men are not only trying to prove they can do what their friends are doing, but also an age where alcohol is often heavily consumed.
Some of the risks most often associated with drowning include:
Though all of the examples above contribute to risky swimming behavior, alcohol is responsible for the majority of them. The CDC estimates the use of alcohol is associated with 70% of water recreation deaths. When a good swimmer consumes alcohol, the dangers can be profound.
This is because alcohol:
A situation in which a non-impaired, skilled swimmer could escape from, can become fatal under the presence of alcohol. That, combined with open water swimming, is as dangerous as it gets.
“Most drownings happen in environments and during activities unsupervised by lifeguards. And the great majority of drownings occur in circumstances where the victim has no intention of going into the water.” –International Life Saving Federation
Most drownings in the 1-4 year-old age range, usually occur in swimming pools. As age increases, drownings happen more frequently in open water settings. For those 15–35 years, theCDC states more than 57% of the drownings occurred in open water.
Open water includes environments such as rivers, lakes, and oceans – all of which pose an even more serious risk to both non-swimmers and experienced swimmers. However, a strong swimmer has a much greater chance to avoid drowning in a swimming pool due to a more contained environment.
Here are several other reasons how open water possesses higher risks for drowning:
It isextremely important to be careful in lake settings because lakes are where most good swimmers tend to drown. Although most of the drowning examples are listed above, here are a few more reasons that are specific to lakes:
People need to be more aware of the risks associated with good swimmers. We have to recognize that no one is immune to drowning, regardless of their swimming abilities. Simple adjustments can be made to drastically reduce risks. Some of the top ones to note are:
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