Perhaps more good swimmers have been drowned by cramp than by anything else, and only those who have suffered from it can conceive its fatal power.
Strong men and good swimmers, when seized with the cramp, have been known to sink instantly, overcome with the sudden pain and nothing can save the victim but the greatest presence of mind.
The usual spot where the cramp is felt is the calf of the leg, just below the knee; and it sometimes comes with such violence that the muscles are gathered up into knots.
There is only one method of proceeding under such circumstances.
Turn on the back at once, kick out the leg in the air, disregarding the pain, and rub the spot smartly with one hand, while the other is employed in paddling towards shore.
These directions are easy enough to give, but most difficult to be obeyed; cramp seems to deprive the sufferer of all reason for the time, and to overpower him with mingled pain and terror.
Still, there is no other hope of reaching shore than that which is here given.
The causes of cramp are generally twofold.
The principal cause lies in indigestion, for it is seldom that a person in really good health is attacked by this malady.
The second reason is over-exertion of muscles that have been little used, and therefore, too strong a leg stroke should always be avoided.
Another thing which demands great practice, is the method of saving a drowning person.
The chief difficulty lies in the fact, that a person who cannot swim feels, in deep water, much as if he were falling through air, and consequently clutches instinctively at the nearest object.
And if he succeeds in fixing a grasp upon the person who is trying to save him, both will probably sink together.
Therefore, every precaution should be taken to prevent such a misfortune and the drowning man should always be seized from behind, and pushed as it were in front.
Should he succeed in fixing his grasp, the only remedy is to dive, when it will be found that he will loosen his hold in finding himself below the surface, and will allow his rescuer to take a better position.
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