Diving boards are the epitome of summer swimming pool fun, but here’s a not-so-fun fact about them that could send you off the deep end: They’re not only incredibly dangerous, but also a huge insurance liability.
Whether you’re considering buying a house with a diving board, installing one at your current pool, or ripping out the board before you close your pool for winter—here’s what you should know. Caution: After reading this, you’ll never do a cannonball the same way again.
Diving board dangers, explained
“Twenty years ago, the overwhelming majority of [in-ground home] pools had a diving board, but fast forward to today and hardly any do,” says Randy Wolfe, president and CEO of Palmetto United, an insurance sales company based in Columbia, SC.
The reason: Having a diving board increases the risk that someone can hurt themselves on your property.
“Three common injuries are falls climbing up the ladder, hitting the diving board—especially when trying tricks—and people accidentally jumping on top of other swimmers in the pool,” Wolfe says.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Center, diving is the leading sports- and recreation-related reason people got spinal injuries between 2010 and 2017. In fact, far more were hurt on diving boards than bungee jumping, or riding a bronco at a rodeo.
As for who gets hurt, kids and teens are most at risk. In one study published in the medical journal Pediatrics examining 17 years worth of data on diving-related injuries, 10- to 14-year-olds made up the largest group (36%) of injured divers. Boys had almost double the odds of a head and/or neck injury or fracture compared with girls.
Does the height or style of diving board curb these risks?
The short answer is no.
“Nearly 83% of the diving-related injuries are from dive heights of less than or equal to 1 meter,” says Lara McKenzie, one of the above study’s authors and a principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The data didn’t indicate a style or height that was “safer” than others. Rather, it’s the depth of the water that’s most important. Whether you’re jumping or diving from a board or the side of a pool, the water “needs to be at least 9 feet deep,” McKenzie says.
How diving boards affect insurance rates
“With an increase in risk, insurance companies will generally charge a higher premium for someone who owns a diving board,” says Wolfe. In fact, “Many insurance companies will not cover a diving board injury at all, and some will even cancel coverage if a person has one and they find out.”
Not that you should hide your diving board when shopping for insurance—far from it. If you have any hope that any injuries incurred here will be covered, you’ll want to point out that you have a diving board, and consider an umbrella policy (extra liability insurance).
“For approximately an extra $300 to $400 per year, a person can get around $1 million to $2 million of coverage,” says Wolfe. Sure, it’s an extra expense, but well worth it for protection and peace of mind.
So what can you do to make your diving board as safe as possible?
If you’re not ready to part ways with your diving board, you’ve got options.
- Make sure your board is in good working order. If you see cracks, rusting hardware, or signs of damage, it’s time for a replacement. And when it comes to installing one, don’t cheap out. Have it put in by a professional.
- Never hang on the diving board. So fun, yet so unsafe. A person about to dive won’t see you underneath.
- Dive straight off it. Not from the sides of the board.
- Keep your pool deck and diving area clear. That way, no one accidentally trips over toys and pool equipment.
- No tricks. Unusual dives are responsible for nearly 17% of all diving board injuries. Keep it simple.
- Have visible depth indicators around the pool. These can dissuade people from trying to dive into the shallow end—always a dangerous idea. Lest you think diving boards are only to blame, 57.2% of diving accidents happen in water that’s 4 feet deep or shallower.
- Never dive alone. In case of an emergency, help will be needed.
Last but not least, keep in mind that anyone—not just kids—can be hurt on a diving board.
“Even competitive, Olympic-level divers can be injured while diving,” McKenzie says.
But if it makes you feel any better, diving boards aren’t the only dangerous thing you have in your yard.
As homeowners, you’ll always want to weigh the risks against the rewards.