As the long hot summer of 2020 continues, it’s not surprising many Jersey residents are trying to keep cool by taking a dip down the shore and at lakes and pools.

Unfortunately, that’s resulted in an unusually high number of water-related injuries.

“We definitely have seen a large volume of injuries over the past several weeks,” said Dr. Kelly Willman, a trauma critical care surgeon at AtlantiCare. “I think it’s a consequence of people under-estimating the strength of the ocean right now and over-estimating their ability to overcome that.”

“We’ve seen everything from simple broken bones, broken ribs to more devastating injuries, head injuries, cervical spine injuries resulting in paralysis, and sometimes even death,” Willman said.

The summer has already seen several drownings.

Willman said neck injuries are common, frequently as a result of bodysurfing, or riding waves without any board.

“That’s an activity that I would discourage," she said. "I know I sound like a ‘Debbie Downer’ but it’s a very risky behavior."

But even simple swimming can be dangerous, especially for inexperienced ocean swimmers.

Willman pointed out some people don’t know how to react when caught in a rip current and start swimming against the current, which is not what you’re supposed to do. People caught in a rip are supposed to swim sideways, or parallel to the shore, in order to get out of the stream before trying to swim back to the shore.

Alcohol and drugs have also been a factor in some water injuries.

Willman said serious water-related injuries can be devastating for everybody “but especially our younger patients because they go from young, healthy, viable outgoing young men and women to critically ill on a ventilator, perhaps even losing function of their extremities.”

She said the best ways to stay safe are to swim on guarded beaches or in guarded pools and always swim with a buddy.

"Make sure somebody is there watching you and has your back," she said.

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