From Anderson Pond in North Stonington, CT
Summer is officially in full swing, and many Rhode Islanders flock to their favorite beach, bay or lake for a little fun in the sun. Motorized water sports are a particular favorite in the area, including jet skiing, tubing and banana boats, water skiing and wakeboarding. The rush of wind and adrenaline unfortunately also comes with a high risk of injury.
According to the US Coast Guard, there were 4,186 recreational boating related accidents resulting in 2,559 total injuries in 2019 alone (1). The most common injuries reported are orthopedic in nature. Ankle sprains and fracture are commonly seen with water skiing as the skier is strapped in to the skis, while concussion and ACL injuries are most common with wakeboarding.
Many of these injuries can be prevented by following a few easy tips below:
1. Warm up
It may sound silly to warm up before an afternoon of tubing under the hot sun. However, water sports often involve pushing your body in ways you wouldn’t normally, as well as using different muscle groups in ways you aren’t used to. Loosening up those muscles prior to any activity is important, even more so for activities you don’t normally do frequently. Whether it’s your first time out on the jet ski or tenth, a light bit of stretching before revving up the engine is ideal.
From Champlin's Marina in Block Island, RI
2. Know your limits
It is often easy to get caught up in the moment and want to push yourself past your limits when it comes to water sports. Or, you may not even know what your limits are if it is your first time out on the water doing a particular activity. Pushing the throttle faster, attempting jumps or tricks, or trying to outdo your more experienced friends all come with risks. It is essential to know and respect your own individual limitations and experience level to stay safe out on the water. This is particularly important with the high velocity activities, where high risk does not always lead to high reward.
3. Wear proper protective equipment
Accidents happen every single day, particularly out on the water where weather, tides, and currents can change very quickly and often without warning. Even the most experienced athlete can run into trouble with an injury on the water. The most common cause of death of boating and water sports accidents is drowning, typically due to head trauma. No matter how strong of a swimmer you are, a life jacket is essential and can save your life. Confusion or lack of consciousness even for a few seconds can lead to drowning. Wearing a helmet is also recommended to help prevent head injury.
It is also necessary to have a trusted individual, preferably someone trained in basic first aid and life support with you on any water sport excursion. You should also never head out onto the water alone, always bring a buddy.
Despite following the tips above, the potential for injury and accidents while out on the water is still high. While most accidents are minor, keeping a calm head and knowing when to seek help is essential. Nothing clouds a sunny boat day quite like an injury, so stay cool, know your limits, and enjoy the ride!