Get the Waterskies Out and Be Safe This Summer

Waterskiing and wakeboarding are exhilarating water sports where the athlete is pulled by a motorboat while holding on to a rope. A water skier stands up on either two skies or one ski (slalom), while a wake boarder puts both feet into bindings on a single board, with both feet pointing sideways similar to positioning of the feet in snowboarding. It has been estimated that there are more than eight million water skiers and more than three million wake boarders in the United States. In order to keep these sports as safe as possible, there are certain precautions that should be taken.

Injury Types

Most injuries from waterskiing and wakeboarding are minor, including cuts, bruises, lacerations, and sprains. Injuries to the head and neck are more common in wakeboarding and injuries to the hip, knee, and other parts of the lower extremities are more common in waterskiing. Between 2000 and 2007, there were more than 18,000 wakeboarding injuries and more than 52,000 waterskiing injuries in the United States. More serious injuries include head injuries such as concussions as well as eardrum ruptures.

While rare, catastrophic injuries, including amputations and death, do occur. Most of these injuries are caused by collisions between the boat and the athlete, and the most devastating injuries are from a propeller. As in any water sport, drowning is also a risk.

Prevention of Injuries

Proper conditioning and training can prevent many of the more common injuries. Stretching, strengthening, and overall conditioning can decrease the risk of sprains and strains. One key tip, especially for beginners, is to let go of the towrope when falling in order to avoid being dragged through the water in a compromised position. Skiers should also be taught to keep the front of their skis above the water in order to avoid getting the front of their skis stuck and to keep their knees flexed. It is important that wake boarders attempt tricks commensurate with their abilities.

Proper equipment is also critical with bindings being tight enough so that skis and wakeboards do not spontaneously fall off. Because of the occurrence of head injuries in wakeboarding, helmets might also prevent injury. This recommendation is somewhat controversial, but helmets should definitely be used when wake boarders are using rails, sliders, or other fixed objects to facilitate tricks. Wearing some sort of flotation device can also help prevent drowning, especially if a skier is injured or loses consciousness from a head injury.

Waterskiing and wake boarding are fun warm weather sports and can be safe as long as proper training and precautions are taken.

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