Swimming Injury Statistics

Drowning is a Leading Cause of Unintentional Death Worldwide

Swimming pools are beacons of fun for summer adventurers, with children and adults alike logging plenty of splash time during the warm-weather months. But where there's fun, there can also be a risk of danger—and swimming is no different.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in the world, with 372,000 drowning deaths reported annually.

The Centers for Disease Control report that here in the United States, on average, 3,536 people died from drowning annually from 2005 to 2014, which equates to 10 deaths each day. Then there are the thousands of others who suffer swimming pool-related injuries each year.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that an average of 4,900 people received emergency care for injuries suffered in a swimming pools or spas each year in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Swimming Pool Drowning Deaths and Kids

It's an unbelievable statistic: According to the CDC, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. And according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 390 deaths a year on average are attributed to drowning in a swimming pool or at a spa.

Here are some other statistics about swimming pool accidents and drowning deaths among children:

  • From 2015-2017, 73 percent nonfatal swimming pool injuries involved children younger than 5
  • Males younger than 15 were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal drowning than females
  • Almost 6500 children younger than 15 years old were treated for pool injuries from 2015-2017
  • 74 percent of fatal pool accidents occured at residential locations
  • 67 percent of swimming pool drowning deaths involved children younger than 3 years old.
  • In Pennsylvania alone, four children died from drowning in a swimming pool in 2014.
  • A whopping 75 percent of drowning deaths of children younger than 15 occurred at a swimming pool located at a private residence (home pool, neighbor's pool).
  • 17 percent of swimming pool-related drowning deaths among children younger than 15 happened in an above-ground pool.
  • 9 percent of those pediatric drowning deaths occurred in portable pools.

Swimming Pool Injuries and Kids

According to the Centers for Disease Control, for every child in the United States who drowns, five other children receive emergency room care for injuries suffered in a swimming pool. But where do those injuries occur? According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission:

  • 47 percent of children who suffered swimming pool injures did so at a residential swimming pool.
  • 27 percent of children who suffered injuries while swimming did so at a public pool or spa.
  • There was no location given for the remaining 26 percent of the injuries reported.

The nature of those injuries is often severe. According to statistics:

  • More than 50 percent of drowning victims treated at an emergency room required to be either hospitalized or transferred to another facility for further care.
  • Non-fatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that could result in long-term health issues including memory and learning problems.
  • Medical costs for near-drowning victims 14 and younger can cost more than $8,000 for initial hospital treatment, and those costs could soar to more than $250,000 each year if long-term care is needed.
  • If the drowning-related injury results in brain damage, the overall cost of medical treatment, and work and quality of life losses could cost as much as $5.5 million.

Factors That Influence Drowning Risk

According to the CDC, various factors influence a person's chance of drowning, including:

  • Subpar Swim Skills: Research indicates that children who receive swimming instruction are less likely to drown or suffer a swimming-related injury. Learning swimming pool safety tips also helps.
  • Barriers: Four-sided fencing around swimming pools reduces the risk of drowning by about 80 percent compared to swimming pools secured by three-sided fencing.
  • Lack of Supervision: It almost goes without saying: Children are more likely to drown or suffer a swimming-related injury when they are in a pool unsupervised. But a swimming-related death or injury can also happen when there is supervision. According to statistics, 77 percent of those involved in a home drowning accident had been missing for no more than five minutes when they were found in the swimming pool—and 70 percent weren't expected to be in or near the pool at that time.
  • Alcohol Use: There's a reason you see those "alcohol prohibited" signed outside both residential and public swimming pools: Statistically, alcohol is attributed as a factor in as many as 70 percent of all water recreation injuries and deaths.
  • Seizure Disorder: For people affected by seizure disorder, drowning is the most common cause of injury or death.

What is a Circulation Entrapment Injury?

Circulation entrapment is a fancy term for when a swimmer is trapped by suction generated by water rushing out of the drain of a pool, hot tub or spa. These injuries happen when a swimmer gets hair, jewelry, accessories or even a limb stuck.

Sadly, circulation entrapment is most common among young swimmers, who generally lack the physical strength to free themselves from the suction, leading to injuries and sometimes even death.

According to statistics:

  • Between 2009 and 2013 there were 33 instances of circulation entrapment.
  • Swimmers suffered injuries in 85 percent (or 28 people) of those instances of circulation entrapment.
  • Of those victims, 21 were children who were 15 or younger.
  • 45 percent of the reported circulation entrapment injuries happened in a pool.
  • 33 percent happened in a spa.
  • 21 percent happened in a whirlpool tub.
  • Overall, 64 percent of the circulation entrapments occurred in public places.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision CDC: Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts World Health Organization: Downing (media centre) Drowning Deaths and Injuries Infographic

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