| Friday, February 24, 2017
In its experience, USA Swimming observed that the greatest risk of serious head injury in swimming occurs in connection with teaching racing starts. In response, our insurer engaged Indiana University to conduct a racing start study. Several important observations from that study are:
- A swimmer who is told to dive straight down with arms at the side may well have sufficient head velocity at a six-foot depth to cause serious injury.
- Racing starts from the side of the pool are typically no shallower than racing starts off the starting blocks.
- Experienced swimmers can always control the depth of their racing starts (unless they are trying a new technique). Most, but not all inexperienced swimmers can control the depth of their racing starts.
USA Swimming has taken the following steps in response to these observations:
- The American Red Cross Safety Training for Swim Coaches Manual and training course have been modified to emphasize the importance of appropriate safety measures in teaching racing starts, including the use of a proper progression for novice swimmers and the elimination of any technique that involves diving with arms at the side, over sticks, or through hoops, unless that technique is performed in a diving well. The revised version of the Safety Training for Swim Coaches Supplement manual is now available. It can be downloaded at the bottom of the American Red Cross Safety Training for Swim Coaches page . (See Chapter 2: Head-first Entries and Racing Start Safety.)
- Effective May 1, 2009, USA Swimming’s Board of Directors has modified the racing start rule, 103.2.2 (which already provides that racing starts should only be taught in at least six feet of water) to further clarify that racing starts should only be taught under the direct supervision of a USA Swimming member coach, and to expand the definition of teaching racing starts to make clear that no swimmer who has not been certified as proficient by his or her coach should be performing racing starts into less than six feet of water (revised Rule 103.2.2 is attached).
- The certification process is described on the Racing Start Certification Checklist which was also approved by the Board. That document requires that for swimmers age 10 years and under or swimmers with less than one year of experience, the coach must certify that the swimmer has been trained according to the progression set forth on the form. (That progression is based on the revised Safety Training Manual). For older or more experienced swimmers, the checklist requires the coach to certify appropriate skill level based on the coach’s observation. The required certification is based on the coach’s professional judgment and must be recorded in writing for each swimmer. The Racing Start Certification Checklist and a FAQ document regarding that checklist can be downloaded below.