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Spinal injuries prompt warnings against diving at oceanfront

Tom Gill, Chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service says that if "you can’t see what you’re diving into, you shouldn’t dive into it."
Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi - stock.adobe.com

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Lifeguards in Virginia Beach are warning people against diving into murky and shallow water at the oceanfront in the wake of three people reporting spinal cord injuries this year. 

Tom Gill is chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service. He told The Virginian-Pilot last week that if "you can't see what you're diving into, you shouldn't dive into it." 

Chad Rosenbrock dived into the surf in June and reportedly hit his head. The impact broke several vertebrae. The 46-year-old Navy veteran was paralyzed from the chest down.

Virginia Beach saw six suspected spinal injuries in 2020, three in 2019, two in 2018 and seven in 2017.

Most injuries are fairly minor. And less than 10% result in paralysis. But doctors say they're all preventable.

"The recommendation is you should always have at least 10 to 12 feet deep (water) and you should be able to see the bottom before you dive anywhere," physician Francis Counselman told the newspaper. "Most of these injuries occur in less than 3 feet of water — and it could be the ocean, it could be a pool."

Author's Note: The video above is on file from March 31, 2021.