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10:09 a.m. July 17, 2012
Drownings on the Rise in Tennessee
By Michael Williams

This month 5 people drowned in East Tennessee waters, and the number will probably increase as our hot weather prevails. These deaths probably could have been prevented if the victim had learned how to swim.

A Knoxville, TN swim teacher has a special program that can teach any adult to swim as few as 3 lessons (everyone can learn, some take a little longer than others). The only requirement is that the student "wants" to learn to swim. Classes are offered to people age 15 through 85 at his heated indoor pool in West Knoxville.

The instructor, Ed Pemberton, came to East Tennessee to serve on the faculty at the University of Tennessee, teaching people how to teach disabled children and adults to swim, one of his special areas of expertise. Other areas include SCUBA training (over 5000 divers certified), training swimming instructors for the Red Cross, teaching infants and children swimming—lecturing in Argentina, Greece, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, France, Mexico and more.

He has a master's degree from the University of Kentucky in Exercise Physiology and Sports Medicine and completed PhD study in Mechanical Analysis of Sport Activities at the University of Iowa.

The adult swimming program is scientifically-based on the correct mechanics for swimming coupled with a psychology of teaching the subconscious mind to overcome fear and enjoy the water.

Pemberton said panic is another factor in drowning.

"People panic when they go under," said Pemberton. "In swimming classes, students learn to go under water with confidence and to control their breathing. They learn not to panic. Fear is fatal."

Over 1000 people have taken the program successfully. Most students have come from East Tennessee and others have traveled from Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, Chicago and England.

The adult approach is to explain what and why each skill is to be done, demonstrate how the skill is done, and then talk and assist the student in completing each task until it is mastered.

The program includes rescue skills that can be used while fishing, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and by everyone who may find themselves around, in, or on the water.

The Centers for Disease Control reports the main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

These tragedies have brought media attention to drowning which is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC estimates from 2005-2009 there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drowning deaths (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. Most of these occur in a 90 day period spanning June through August. This averages out to be almost 40 per day during the summer months. An additional 347 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.

About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children age 1-4 than any other cause except birth defects. Among children aged 1-14, drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury related death behind motor vehicle deaths.

An astounding 80 percent of the victims are male. The drowning death rate among African American children aged 1-14 is three times that of white children.

For more information on swimming safety and swimming classes call Ed Pemberton at 865-691-2525 or visit his web site at

Published July 17, 2012

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