SPARTA, NJ – While most of the town was celebrating the fourth of July, one young man sustained a traumatic neck injury.  A 23 year-old man from Vernon was at a party at a home on Lambert Drive when he dove into the pool, hitting the bottom and injuring his neck, according to Sparta police.

The man dove into the pool at the slope area, where it transitions from the shallow to the deep end, police said.  He was pulled out of the pool by friends who suspected he had a problem.  The Vernon man could not feel anything below his chest, police report.

He was medevacked to Morristown Medical Center.  His current condition is unknown.

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Police remind people of the dangers of diving into a pool or lake. “Any time you enter the water, there is an inherent risk.  Diving increased that risk,” said Lt John-Paul Beebe.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury database recreation is the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury.  They also report men account for 80 percent of all new spinal cord injury cases. The average age reported for recreation related spinal cord injuries is 24 years. 

The Shepherd Center hospital specializing in medical treatment, rehabilitation and research for spinal cord and brain injury calls diving “one of the most preventable causes of spinal cord injuries.”  They said this is because “generally a person decides to take a dive that results in a life-altering injury.”

The Shepherd Center confirms diving to be the “fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury for men and fifth for women.”

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimate 11,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year in the United States.  They confirm 81.2 percent are male and that diving is the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injuries among men and fifth among women.

“Diving head first into shallow water can have irreversible and catastrophic consequences,” said Sparta Chiropractor Dr. Ronald Santangelo. “This life changing event occurs when the head strikes the shallow bottom and then a downward force causes axial loading onto the fragile cervical vertebral bodies.  The force generated causes the vertebral bodies to explode like a grenade sending shrapnel of bony fragments into the delicate spinal cord.  Moments later the victim has a life changing and usually permanent event.  Diving rules shared by many are never dive into unknown waters and never dive head first.” 

Mayo Clinic publication on the topic said “Spinal cord injuries result from damage to the vertebrae ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the cord itself… A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates crushes or compresses one of more of your vertebrae.”

Dr Bohniski of the Mayfield Brian and Spine facility and Asst Professor of Neurosurgery at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine explains “when the entire weight of one’s body hits the bottom of a pool or rock, the force transmitted to the cervical spine is incredible.”