Researchers discovered the maximum heights people can dive from before being injured by using 3D-printed models and dropping them into a tank.

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3D-printed models reveal the forces felt while diving. Cornell University’s Anupam Pandey, Jisoo Yuk, and Sunghwan Jung

How far would you dare to jump? An experiment using 3D-printed models revealed how high people can leap into the water without serious injury.

Sunghwan Jung of Cornell University in New York and his colleagues investigated the forces felt when slamming into the water by dropping 3D-printed models of various human postures into a tank. One depicted a person diving head first with their hands by their sides, another with their hands above their heads and palms touching, and another with just a leg and a foot representing jumping in feet first. When dropped, each model was equipped with a force sensor and was filmed with a high-speed camera.

The researchers compared the forces they recorded to those known to cause physical harm to people in order to determine unsafe diving heights. They discovered that those force levels were met by head-first divers exceeding 8 meters, hands-first divers exceeding 12 meters, and foot-first divers exceeding 15 meters.

According to Jung, the majority of the force acting on the body while diving is caused by water displacement. He compares it to quickly pushing your fingers into a jar of honey, where the liquid fiercely resists.

People have successfully jumped from much greater heights than the study’s limits. Laso Schaller, for example, set the record for the highest feet-first dive in 2015 when he jumped from 58.8 meters above the water. Jung claims that in order to perform such extreme jumps without injuring themselves, divers must flex the right muscles, making their bodies stiffer and tighter.

According to Nathaniel Jones of the Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, head and neck injuries are common when dives go wrong, and shoulder and lower back injuries are common in divers in general. “Springboard divers average 100-150 dives per day, while platform divers average 50-100 dives per day.” “Doing so many dives puts them at risk of multiple injuries,” he says.

Jung says his team wants to test different shaped models for dives into the snow rather than water, such as those performed by foxes.

Reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo5888

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