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Common Sea Kayaking Injuries: Awareness

Posted by on February 21, 2012

Recently, I stumbled across an interesting article on common paddling injuries published in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. This original research was published by Colin Powell of the Cardiff School of Health Sciences at the University of Wales under the title “Injuries and Medical Conditions Among Kayakers Paddling in the Sea Environment.” In reading the article I was very impressed with its findings and felt it my duty as an instructor to convey them to my audience for the sake of awareness.

The results published in the article were based on answers to a questionnaire that was collected from 170 British sea kayaking enthusiast. Those polled were asked questions about their personal experience with respect to health impacts from kayaking and what they perceived to be the most common injuries suffered by sea kayakers. The participants were approached with the questionnaire when seen with a kayak either on the beach or in parking lots of local kayaking launches in Pembrokeshire, UK. I feel that the findings remain largely representative of the amateur sea kayaking population as a whole despite the clear bias in both the method of reporting and the sample population.

Of the sample population, approximately 35% indicated that they had suffered injuries while sea kayaking. The types of injuries and their frequency are summarized in the graph and table below.

It is interesting to note that joint, tendon, and muscle conditions represent the most frequently reported injury. Many of the more commonly perceived sea kayaking injuries such as shoulder dislocations and injury to the head and neck were reported much less often. I was surprised to see the rather low incidence of cuts and scrapes in the results seeing as these were by far the most common injury that I have dealt with during my years of instructing. Also, I was surprised that conditions such as sun burn, heat exhaustion, and mild hypothermia did not appear on the list. These are common health concerns that paddlers often fail to take seriously and may not have warranted reporting by the sample population in this study for this reason.

In review of these findings it is important to highlight the following: 1) The majority of the sample population (65%) did not report experiencing an injury while sea kayaking so don’t go pack away your kayak out of fear of getting hurt. Statistics say that you’re much more likely to get hurt driving to the launch than while in your kayak. 2) An overwhelming majority (96%) reported positive health benefits from kayaking including both physical and psychological benefits. Certainly, most paddlers that I know would also agree that the rewards of kayaking far outweigh the risks. 3) All of the types of injuries reported are highly preventable.

In the coming weeks I will attempt to revisit each of the common sea kayaking injuries addressed in this article and as seen through my experience by providing tips on prevention and treatment through devoted posts.

Happy and Safe Paddling

-Kayak Dave

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