Category Archives: Regulation

Angled Wedge-Shaped Footrest For Starting Blocks

About 18 months ago FINA approved starting blocks with an angled wedge-shaped footrest on the back edge.  The idea is that athletes will have the advantage of producing more force from the blocks and therefore faster starts/races.  In addition to the wedge some manufacturers are able to provide side handles on the blocks that athletes can use to generate speed.  Such handles were part of the custom blocks at IUPUI that were installed 30 years ago and have been allowed for many years.  The measure of the amount of advantage of the adjustable footrest is not conclusive but testing indicates that the handles offer significant advantage.  USA Swimming and recently the NCAA voted to allow the wedge style blocks but NFSHSA has not yet approved them.  KDI Paragon, SR Smith and Spectrum, have wedge-style blocks with side handles. Omega has wedge-style blocks.   Anti and Kiefer only offer side handles only.  Older blocks by KDI Paragon and Spectrum can be retrofitted to have a wedge and handles.

There are negative aspects to the wedge.  Different athletes will want different locations so wedges must be easily movable.  Some athletes do not like the wedge and choose not to use it.  Some athletes may not be used to the manufacturer’s method of adjustment.  Delays in meets may be common.  The wedge also may need to be safely removable during relay starts.  Then, where does it go?  Who replaces it?  With rear step starting blocks stepping over the wedge can be a safety concern.  With side step starting blocks stepping over the handles may be a problem.

All Stories

Minimum Water Depths Under Starting Blocks

On July 20, 2012, the Facility Design and Construction Model for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was posted for public comment due October 14, 2012.  In section 4.8.3.3. a single sentence could change the industry standard for minimum depths  under starting blocks to 6 feet and 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet.  This could have a significant impact on swimming pools around the country and industry professionals are encouraged to participate in the public input process.  In order to make an informed decision, the following data is offered for consideration. 

Competitive swimmers execute headfirst dive entries from starting blocks into pools where water depths can vary. If the swimmer’s head strikes the bottom of a pool, this could result in damage to the cervical vertebrae, thus may result in quadriplegia. This was a significant topic of conversation in the industry in the early 1980s when a varsity swimmer at a university was injured in practice. Before 1970 this was unheard of, but in the early 70s, goggles were introduced and different methods of completing racing dives were developed to maximize speed and minimize the potential for losing goggles.  

In prevention of Cervical Spinal Injuries (CSI), a cohesive plan currently does not exist for a minimum uniform water depth, which would lessen the likelihood of catastrophic tragedies. “No Diving” signs are posted when the water is less than five feet deep in some states, and four feet in others. There is still more inconsistency. What is the right depth for balancing safety and function for underneath starting blocks? Moreover, should we build all-deep water pools? What depth? And what about recreation swimmers?  

Here’s the Confusion

Up until the early 2000s the industry standard water depths were in the 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet range. November 2001, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) changed minimum water depths from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet. USA Swimming followed suit with a note that teaching off a starting block shall be limited to 6 feet water depth. 

Policy makers, swimming pool rulebooks, and state swimming pool codes still lack research in regard to water depth requirements under starting blocks. Moreover, water depth requirements under starting blocks in governing bodies’ rulebooks not only conflict with one another but often conflict with state statutes, which may in turn conflict with local county and municipal ordinances.  

The following shows a variance among the four aquatic governing bodies, as well as the YMCA and the American Red Cross, in regard to water depth for headfirst entries. 

Federation Internationale DE Natation (FINA): 4 feet 5 inches.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): 4 feet.

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS): 4 feet.

USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming: 4 feet for racing, 6 feet for teaching.

YMCA: 5 feet.

American Red Cross: 9 feet.

 

The Research

The Counsilman Center for The Science of Swimming completed a study in 2011 on racing start safety published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.  Joel Stager, Director reports the water depth needed to prevent contact with the bottom of the pool that could result in injury is well beyond 6 feet 7 inches and the critical link to safe starting block starts is education.  In summary this research indicates:

  1. Swimmers go deeper in deeper water
  2. Older swimmers go deeper than younger swimmers
  3. All ages ( and experience levels) of swimmers go shallower when asked to do so
  4. There are differences in head depth as a function of block height
  5. Virtually all starts are fast enough to cause injury if an impact should occur
  6. Very few swimmers go deeper than five feet even in seven feet of water. 

We are at a crossroads between safety versus programming when they should be compatible.  The key to safety in this matter is instruction and how participates learn how to dive.  The reality is no water depth is safe without proper instruction.  When making an informed decision, one must balance the threats and benefits from an activity.  There has been plenty of research on the health advantages of recreation, lesson, fitness, and competitive swimming and how it impacts safety and lifestyle. Here’s a nice shout out to water safety programs and ongoing swim lessons nationwide. Even though more and more people are exposed to a growing number of swimming pools at new aquatic facilities across the nation, drowning death rates in the United States have declined in the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

 

Should We Build All-Deep Water Pools?

Is the answer that we build all-deep water pools? And if so, how deep? Twenty years ago swimmers swam nearly their entire race at the surface. Today most elite swimmers swim a large percentage of their races 3 to 4 feet below the surface, utilizing a butterfly (dolphin) kicking technique.  

Championship pool depth may impede many instructional, fitness, and recreational opportunities and consequently, revenue potential. And since people frequent pools for a variety of reasons—fitness, relaxation, instruction, competition, and therapy—today’s swimming facilities do not just accommodate competitive swimmers but are multidimensional centers encompassing all types of swimmers.  

To provide a fiscally sustainable facility, multiple users must be able to use the same space for different purposes at different times. Building an all deep-water competitive pool would significantly limit other uses such as recreation, lesson, fitness and therapy.  The following shows preferred water depths for various types of swimmers. 

0 – 3.5 Feet

        Toddlers

        Recreation

        Wellness / Therapy 

3.5 – 5 Feet

        Recreation

        Lap Swimming

        Wellness / Therapy 

5 – 10 Feet

        Competitive Swimming

        Water Polo

        Synchronized Swimming 

11.5 Feet +

        Diving

Unintended Consequences

Some may suggest that the Facility Design and Construction Module is limited to new construction and would not apply to existing facilities.  I would suggest that given the United States legal system this is naive.  I cannot envision an outcome that defines separate solutions water depth solutions for new and older pools.  In 2001 when the NFSH changed the minimum depth standard from 3 feet six inches to 4 feet, many high school pools moved the starting blocks from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end.  For pools without diving wells, this proposed change would likely require structural modifications to the pool shell.  To renovate a six lane 25 yard pool from a maximum water depth of 4 feet to 6 feet 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet in front of the pool edge is estimated to be in the $200,000 range.  Not only will the pool depth be effected but the mechanical equipment will need to be upgraded to services the increased water volume.  For new construction the differential cost is not as great with an estimated increased cost in the $20,000 range.  

Conclusion

The State of Michigan is the only state that requires water depths under starting blocks to be 6 feet 7 inches.  If the MAHC codifies this unique standard it will change the national standard as defined by the governing bodies of sport.  In this writer’s opinion, the unintended consequences maybe the dramatic decline of competitive swimming activities in the United States similar to the effects of removing high dives across the country in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  If this happens what are the negative health effects on childhood obesity and an increased sedentary lifestyle? 

 

Illinois Governor Signs Swimming Pool Code Into Law

In a April 30, 2012 post on Hydrologic titled “Illinois Swimming Facility Legislation in Final Stages of Passage” we discussed significant changes in the swimming pool code for the state of Illinois.  In June, Bill SB3727  passed both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor on June 29, 2012.  The Govenor approved the legislation on August 14, 2012 to become effective January 1, 2013.

This amends the Swimming Facility Act and makes changes to certain definitions, provisions concerning licenses to operate, permits for construction or major alteration, license renewal, and payment of fees. A unique requirement for the State of Illinois will now be that any person seeking to submit plans, perform construction, or repair of a swimming facility must be licensed by the Department of Public Health.  Please contact the Illinois Department of Health for licensing requirements.

 

Contamination Burden Module Just Released For Public Comment

The Contamination Burden module for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) has just been posted by the CDC on July 20, 2012 for public comment. This module is unusual in that there is no code section.  . The deadline for public comments is October 14, 2012. Counsilman-Hunsaker strongly encourages everyone in the aquatic community to review and participate in this process.

MAHC Contamination Burden Module Abstract

Understanding the types of contaminants and the magnitude of disinfectant demand by various environmental factors (e.g., particulate) is an essential component to design and operate a recirculation and filtration system. Limited data currently exists, but a substantial research agenda has been created. The following is a summary of the existing data and areas where data are lacking. Since the Contamination Burden “module” is informational, this module is ANNEX-based only – NO CODE section accompanies it. After being posted for public comment, the information contained in this module will be merged into the appropriate MAHC modules upon final completion. The section numbering system will be different in this draft as there are no specific code sections yet assigned to any of this information.

The Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee and Technical Committees appreciate your willingness to comment on the draft MAHC modules. Click here to download comment form.

All public comments will filter back to the Technical Committee for review before the module is officially released.

MAHC Background

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005. The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences. To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to www.chh2o.com/MAHC

Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module Open For Public Comment

The Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was posted by the CDC on May 31, 2012 for public comment.  With most of the seasonal pools in the United States opening that week, we suspect that many industry professionals may have  missed the posting, including us.  The deadline for public comments is October 14, 2012. Counsilman-Hunsaker strongly encourages everyone in the aquatic community to review and participate in this process.

MAHC Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module Abstract

Health and safety issues related to bather supervision and lifeguarding for both the patron and the potential rescuer of an aquatic facility are increasingly being documented. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module is a first step towards improving the consistency in training, lifeguard management and supervision, lifeguard competency for guarded facilities and proper bather supervision at unguarded facilities. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module contains requirements for unguarded and guarded aquatics along with the training necessary to be a qualified lifeguard. The module includes:

  1. Standards for which aquatic facilities need to be guarded and which may not need to have professional lifeguard supervision but are still supervised.
  2. An Aquatic Facilities Safety Plan guide including pre-service, in-service, staffing, single lifeguard, lifeguard management and Emergency Action Plan requirements.
  3. Requirements for aquatic facilities to define, diagram, and document required zones of patron surveillance.
  4. Determination of what constitutes proper staffing by the ability of the lifeguard to reach all areas of their zone of patron surveillance within a certain time frame.
  5. Required lifesaving equipment, communications standards, and general requirements for lifeguards and lifeguard supervision/management training.

In addition to the Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision module, an annex section is provides support information to assist users in understanding the background of the provisions.

The Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee and Technical Committees appreciate your willingness to comment on the draft MAHC modules. Click here to download comment form.

All public comments will filter back to the Technical Committee for review before the module is officially released.

MAHC Background

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005. The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences. To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to www.chh2o.com/MAHC