Posted on July 22, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

As a brain injury attorney, I know that when a person or child survives after almost drowning it isn’t always a happy ending.

Deprived of oxygen for too long a time, would-be drowning victims can suffer severe brain damage.  The way to stop that tragic scenario is to rescue a swimmer as quickly as possible, before they become unconscious as they struggle to breathe.

That’s why this Yahoo article, headlined “Drowning Looks Different Than You Think,” on misconceptions about drowning is such an important read. It’s particularly for crucial for parents, since drowning is the No. 1 cause of injury death for kids aged one to four.

In the movies and on TV, drowning victims scream for help and thrash around in the water. They’re not hard to miss. But the reality is quite different.

The story quotes an article written by a Ph.D.,  Francesco Pia, about the Instinctive Drowning Response. He says that when someone is drowning they can’t call for help. That’s because before you can speak, you must be breathing. So when your mouth is bobbing up and down as you try to catch a breath, you can’t yell for help. 

And drowning people can’t wave for assistance. They are too busy pressing their arms down laterally to try to buoy their bodies, so they get their heads out of the water and can catch a breath of air.  

“Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment,” the Yahoo story said.

There is also a list of signs of drowning to watch out for, which include: head tilted back with open mouth; hair over forehead or eyes; eyes glassy and unable to focus; eyes closed; body is vertical and upright in the water; person is not using their legs.    

It’s an important list to keep in mind, particularly in the summer.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447