Summer and spinal injuries

 man doing a jump on a wakeboard 

Spinal injuries that occur as a result of water recreation are sadly a statistic that spikes over summer, as more people head outdoors for water-based activities.

Research gathered by the Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) Trauma Registry shows a significant increase in spinal injury cases during the summer months, peaking in December and January. 306 patients were admitted to RPH with spinal injuries during the 10 years from 2010 to 2019, most of them during summer.

The largest age group to sustain injuries were those aged 16-30, however injuries also affected people as young as 13 right up to those in their 80s. The majority of injured patients were male (85%), which is potentially a result of greater risk taking and more participation in water-related sporting activities.

Over 60% of the injuries occurred at the beach and ocean. Some of the leading causes of injury were collisions with sandbars, dumping by waves and high-speed activities such as water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and kite surfing. A small proportion were international tourists (6.2%), highlighting the dangers of participating in these activities in unfamiliar environments.

Alcohol and drugs also played a part in 53 of the 306 cases, with the stereotype of the intoxicated young male diving into shallow water holding true for around two-thirds of these incidents. However, the fact remains that regardless of a person’s age, gender or whether they are intoxicated there are risks associated with surf and water activities around WA’s beaches and waterways.

Before heading out onto the water this summer, read our tips for water safety:  

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