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Whitewater Injury Survey

Whitewater Injury Survey The Whitewater Injury Survey has been published in "Wilderness and Environmental Medicine" now. Mike and I both appreciate your support for this project. We hope you and your organizations will support future studies of paddle injuries. Below is a short summary of the survey results.

Year 2000 Whitewater Injury Survey

These are summary results of the Year 2000 Whitewater Injury Survey. Full data has been published (June 2002) in the journal "Wilderness and Environmental Medicine". Between June and December 2000 we collected 319 useable responses regarding boating demographics, equipment, and injuries from hard shell canoe and kayak paddlers across North America. These were collected both through our web site and hard copy responses. Raft and inflatable kayak paddling was excluded.


· Women: 28%, Men: 72%
· Eighty percent were between 20 and 50 years of age. Fourteen percent were less than 20; two percent were over 60 years.
· Kayak was paddled exclusively by 63%, and some of the time by 90%. Canoe was paddled exclusively by 6.6%, and some of the time by 33%.
· The average years of paddling was 7.3.
· Fifty percent paddled 0-50 days a year. The average days per year was 67 with a range of 5-300.
· Most boating was done on Class 4 and below. Thirty eight percent did some Class 4+, and 25% did some class 5 (an average of 10% of their boating time).


· Eleven percent used a helmet face guard an average of 2.75 years. Sixty nine percent of users felt it had protected their face. We cannot answer if they caused any problems.
· Twelve percent of kayakers used a bent shaft paddle an average of 11 months.
· Seventy two percent of kayakers used 45 or 60 degree feathered paddles. Five percent paddled un-feathered paddles. Fourteen percent of kayakers decreased feather angle to help with wrist problems, and 73% of those felt it had helped.
· Twenty two percent wore paddling gloves.


· Fourteen percent reported the diagnosis of or treatment for giardia infection. Sixty four percent of those felt it came from their paddling activities. The background rate of giardiasis in the U.S. is reported at 4%
· Twenty seven percent had been injured hiking on shore during a paddling trip. Women were more likely to be injured hiking (36% vs. 24%).


We divided injuries into acute (a known immediate injury) and chronic (a slow onset overuse injury). There were a total of 673 injuries reported (2.2 per respondent). This included 391 acute (1.22/respondent) and 285 chronic (.9/respondent). The injury rate was estimated to be 1.8 injuries per 1000 days paddled. By comparison, Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and wind surfing have estimated rates of 3.2, <1, and 1 respectively. These rates should be taken with a grain of salt.

· Injuries overall were most common at the shoulder, wrist/hand, and elbow/forearm areas.
· Direct trauma (laceration, contusion and abrasion) and sprain/strain were the most common acute injuries. Chronic overuse injuries were dominated by tendonitis and sprain/strain.
· Medical visits were obtained for 42% of injuries (47% of acute injuries and 36% of chronic injuries).
· Surgery was performed for 3.7% of injuries including 13% of acute shoulder injuries.
· Fourteen percent of injuries affected paddling longer than 24 months. Chronic injuries generally affected paddling longer than acute injuries (25% vs. 5% affected paddling > 24 months). Back/chest/hip (trunk) injuries had the most duration of effect on paddling for both acute and chronic injuries.
· Fractures were 9% of acute injuries and most common in back/chest/hip and ankle.
· Shoulder dislocation was reported by 6% of surveyed
· Lacerations represented 31% of wrist/hand injuries, and 38% of head/face/neck injuries.
· As might be expected, injury incidence rose with increased exposure as expressed by years paddled and days per year.
· Injuries comparison by gender showed a potential difference in back/chest/hip injuries. Men reported significantly more acute back/chest/hip injuries, while women reported more chronic back/chest/hip injuries. For other areas of injury, the reporting either was proportional to the gender ratio or reported statistically insignificant differences.
· Comparison by craft showed kayakers had significantly more head/face/neck injuries (17.6% vs. 5.0%). Canoeists had more chronic elbow/forearm injury (30% vs. 17%). The most commonly reported acute canoe injuries were at knee/leg; canoe chronic injuries were most common at elbow/forearm. Kayak injuries were most common at shoulder area for both acute and chronic injuries.
· There was a trend that play/rodeo paddling had higher rates of injury than general river running. Creek and slalom boating may also have higher rates, but the statistics were not adequate.

Surveys have significant limitations; all the data has to be taken with caution. We have to trust the respondents report and memory. Injured persons may more likely respond even though we encouraged the never injured. The complexity of this survey might lend to error. Even so, the results raise questions and point out possible trends.

A prospective following of paddlers over time would clarify true rates of injury especially if backed up with medical records. We hope that all you paddlers will continue to participate in future studies of paddler injuries.

We wish to thank all participants in this study, and the very many who helped in so many ways.

Rick Schoen & Mike Stano



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