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Sailing Injuries Common, Survey Finds

SATURDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A day on the water isn't always smooth sailing. Common sailing injuries include trips and falls, being hit by the boom and getting caught in the lines, according to a new study.

To determine the most frequent accidents that occur on dinghies (small boats crewed by one or two people) and keel boats (large boats such as those used in the America's Cup races, with a crew of up to 16), Rhode Island Hospital researchers conducted an online survey of 1,860 sailors.

The respondents reported a total of 1,715 injuries, with 79 percent reporting at least one injury in the previous 12 months. The most common types of injuries were bruises, cuts and sprains.

Most of the injuries (71 percent) occurred on keel boats. On these boats, trauma to the arms and leg accounted for 78 percent of all injuries, while 11 percent occurred on the torso.

For dinghy sailors, the majority of injuries also occurred on the arms and legs, while head and neck injuries accounted for 12 percent.

On both types of boats, tacking and jibing maneuvers played a role in about one-third of injuries. Activities that commonly preceded the accidents were crossing from one side of the boat to the other during a tack, changing the sails, operating a winch, and steering.

Only 4 percent of the injuries reported by the respondents resulted in evacuation from the vessel and/or hospitalization. Twenty-six percent of sailors received first aid onboard, and 33 percent sought medical care after the injury.

Fractures accounted for 25 percent of the 70 most serious injuries reported, followed by torn tendons or cartilage (16 percent), concussions (14 percent), and dislocations (8 percent). Heavy weather was a contributing factor in 36 percent of the severe injuries, and drinking preceded 7 percent of the accidents.

Most alarming, the researchers said, was to learn that only 30 percent of the sailors in the survey said they wore a life jacket.

The study was published in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.

More information

U.S. Sailing outlines safety at sea.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Rhode Island Hospital, news release, Jan. 4, 2011

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