Competitive Swim Start Safety

Document Type


Publication Date



It could be argued that the only component of competitive swimming that is associated with any appreciable risk to the swimmer is the execution of the racing start from a starting block into shallow water. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected and considered input as a means to formulate guidelines for minimum water depths for the installation of starting blocks. Because there are only limited data on the depths and the velocities swimmers attain while executing starts, the data that are available need careful consideration. Insight into the central question, "how deep is deep enough?" involves consideration of values for maximum head depths, maximum head velocities, and the ability to control trajectory during racing starts. This review considers the literature pertinent to the key variables that, in general, stratify risk and determine successful, safe start outcomes.