The Dangers of Jumping Into Water From Heights

Beautiful couple jumping off cliff into ocean

Whether you are jumping off the high dive at the pool or leaping off a cliff into the ocean, jumping into the water from a height can be fun and exhilarating. However, when you're cliff diving, a back injury and drowning are just two of the potential dangers you face.

Entering Water at High Speed

At what height is it dangerous to jump into the water? Although risky, competitive high divers can enter the water from as high as 27 meters without injury, states Swim England. From this height, divers can reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour. However, serious injury is possible, even when jumping from much lower platforms. From a 10-meter platform, divers still hit the water at speeds of 36.6 miles per hour, according to an article published in the September/October 2017 issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports.

These speeds cause divers to hit the water with incredible force. While water may offer a softer landing than the hard ground, it still exerts a tremendous amount of force on divers' bodies, slowing their speeds by more than 50 percent in only a fraction of a second.

With proper form, the body can absorb the pressure from the impact. High divers typically enter feet first, allowing the feet and legs to absorb the impact. Many other divers enter with the hands and arms extended to protect the head and neck from impact. Even with correct form when entering the water, divers may experience overuse injuries in the joints, especially the wrist and shoulder.

Hazards in the Water

Jumping from a diving board into a pool is relatively safe as you know that water is deep enough and free from hazards. However, jumping into other bodies of water is much riskier. A back injury may result from jumping into shallow water from a cliff. Before cliff jumping, remember that the water level in lakes and rivers may vary based on rainfall and snowmelt, and depth in the ocean may change with the tide.

Additionally, there may be unseen dangers under the water such as big rocks, tree roots and other debris, advises the U.S. Forest Service. Once you enter the water, you may face additional dangers. For example, the current in a river or waterfall may drag you downstream. In the ocean, you risk being caught in a rip current or being hit by a large wave.


Lifeguards are rarely present at parks or other locations where you may go cliff diving. Be sure you and your companions are strong swimmers and able to provide first aid should injury occur.

Common Diving Injuries

Some common injuries from diving include overuse injuries to the shoulder, wrist and elbow, neck injuries from entering the water with poor form and lower back pain from the repeated impact with the water, advises the Current Sports Medicine Reports article. These injuries may also be the result of trauma from impact with a water hazard.

Jumping into the water from heights, especially if you dive hands first, also puts you at risk for a concussion, especially if you do not enter the water at the correct angle. Hitting the water at the wrong angle may also damage the membranes of your ears, the corneas in your eyes or the vestibular system that helps you maintain your balance.

If you are jumping in a location where help is not readily available, you are at risk of drowning if you are not able to swim to safety due to your injuries. In addition, if you jump into cold water, the change in temperature may shock your system and drain your strength, preventing you from reaching the shore.