So far this summer, the ocean has been unkind to swimmers along the Jersey shore. Some incidents have been fatal; others resulted in severe injuries.

In the last week of July alone, the AtlantiCare Regional Trauma Center in Atlantic City treated eight patients who sustained spinal cord injuries while on the beach or in the water. Since Memorial Day, 24 AtlantiCare patients suffered beach/water-related injuries.

"The Trauma Center is on track to record its largest number of summer aquatic injuries," explained Monica Titus, director of the center.

"Body surfing is the most common activity that can result in traumatic injury," said medical director Alexandra Axelrad. "Powerful waves can thrust your head to the ground, causing neck injuries, paralysis or even death."

Axelrad added that boogie boarding, boating and personal watercraft accidents can also cause serious or fatal injuries.

The warning for shore visitors - the ocean doesn't choose its victims. Trauma Program Manager Kimberly Schunk said recent trauma patients ranged in age from 12 to 69.

"You want to be real aware of your surroundings," Schunk advised swimmers of all ages. "You want to make sure that you're going to be swimming where the lifeguards are, and you want to heed their warnings."

She continued, "You want to make sure that you're aware of how rough the waves are, how rough the water is, how shallow it is."

Schunk also said it's smart to always swim with a partner, in case of an emergency.

"You always want to have somebody there who can go for help or actually assist you while you're in the water," she explained.

Other tips include:

  • Never swim or surf at night
  • Never combine alcohol with body surfing or other water activities
  • Practice courtesy and safety; stay clear of other bathers and be watchful of others

Schunk also said parents should constantly keep their eyes on their children while at the beach.

"While the children are in the water, you don't want to be reading a book or texting. You really want to pay attention and watch what the children are doing," Schunk said.