Most beach-related neck and spinal cord injuries are caused by the tremendous strength of the ocean’s waves or by diving head first forcing a person’s neck and spine into harmful, unnatural positions. Spinal injuries can have lifelong consequences for the victim and family and once spinal cord damage is sustained, little can be done to medically repair it.

The good news is most spinal injuries are preventable by following these safety tips:

  • Swim near an open lifeguard station.
  • Check with the lifeguards on beach and ocean conditions before entering the water.
  • Do not dive head first into any unknown water.
  • Do not dive from a cliff, pier or jetty.
  • While bodysurfing or bodyboarding avoid going straight “over the falls”. Try to ride the shoulder.
  • If you wipeout, protect your head and neck by placing your arms and hands over your head.


  • Cuts, scrapes or abrasions to the head or face.
  • Pain or tenderness in the neck or back.
  • Numbness and/or tingling in the arms and legs.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Weakness in the arms and/or legs.
  • Partial or complete paralysis.


  • Get the lifeguard or dial 9-1-1.
  • Advise the injured person not to move; especially the head, neck or back.
  • Maintain the position you find them in and help support their head and neck until help arrives.
  • If they are in the water, keep them still while maintaining an open airway.