Boy Paralyzed After Dive Into Artificial Pond

Biomechanics Expert

This case involves a boy who was rendered paralyzed from the waist down when he dove into a man-made pond and struck his head causing a spinal cord injury. The bottom of the pond was all soft sand. The boy dove from a dock in the middle of the pond with a water depth of approximately 4 feet. There were no warning signs indicating persons should not dive from this particular dock. The boy reported hitting something hard and then losing consciousness. It was later discovered that in the area around the dock, there were cement anchor blocks. It was alleged by the boy’s family that the cement blocks caused the boy’s injury and should not have been located in a dock area. The owner of the property claimed that the boy probably contacted the pond bottom, not the cement anchors. An expert in biomechanics was sought to review the facts and discuss if the boy’s injuries were consistent with hitting a cement block or a sandy floor.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your background in biomechanics.
  • 2. How would one determine if this woman hit hard concrete or soft sand?

Expert Witness Response E-141677

My research is focused in the area of spine biomechanics. Specifically, I perform joint and tissue level mechanical tests to understand how the material behaves differently with age, injury, and degeneration. To determine if the boy hit a concrete block or muddy flooring, I would first like to know how high the dock was from the water and whether he dove from a greater height. Essentially, I would like to better estimate his speed (and therefore energy) before hitting the water. The water would slow him down a little bit, but not much in 4 or 5′ of water. The other thing I would look up is impact mechanics of soil. Both the concrete and soil would absorb some load (obviously the concrete would absorb a lot less) and transfer the remaining energy back to the boy’s skull. After estimating that, I would review failure mechanics of vertebral bodies in the spine. This data is available in the literature and would depend on the boy’s age and bone quality.

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