The Underestimated Impact of Personal Watercraft Injuries

White, Mark W.; Cheatham, Michael L.
September 1999
American Surgeon;Sep1999, Vol. 65 Issue 9, p865
Academic Journal
The popularity of personal watercraft is steadily increasing, as are injuries related to their use. Many of these injuries are not reported to law enforcement agencies, and available personal watercraft injury statistics are suspected to be inaccurate. All personal watercraft-related injuries treated within a four-hospital system (including the regional Level I trauma center) between January 1993 and December 1997 were retrospectively identified. Patient demographics, accident mechanism, injuries sustained, tourist status, outcome, and economic data were collected and compared with available government statistics for the same time period. Sixty-eight consecutive patients injured during personal watercraft use were identified. Of these, 78 per cent were treated and released, whereas 22 per cent required inpatient management. Fractures and soft tissue injuries were the most common injuries sustained. Ninety-seven per cent of patients were discharged home. There was one fatality. Comparison with state and federal statistics identified that personal watercraft injuries are significantly underreported and have an estimated yearly economic impact of more than $235 million. Personal watercraft injuries represent an increasing source of watersport-related trauma. Government statistics on personal watercraft injuries do not accurately reflect the true incidence and economic impact of such trauma. Mandatory educational programs and increased legislation to improve personal watercraft safety should be promoted.


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