Because of the widespread popularity of water sports, plastic and reconstructive surgeons can expect to manage an increasing number of injuries associated with these activities, particularly those related to powered watercraft vehicles. Although seat belts for motorists and helmets for motorcyclists may be efficacious, such devices currently do not serve a similar role in powered watercraft sports. In this study, a retrospective chart review of 194 consecutive patients who presented to the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital (Level I trauma center) as a result of powered watercraft collisions is presented. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the incidence, cause, demographics, and available management options for head and neck injuries secondary to powered watercraft. Identified were 194 patients who presented because of watersports-related injuries during the period January 1, 1991, through December 31, 1996. From this group, 81 patients (41.8 percent) sustained injuries directly attributable to powered watercraft collisions, including 41 personal watercraft collisions (50.6 percent), 39 boat collisions (48.1 percent), and 1 airboat collision (1.2 percent). The patient population, as expected, tended to be young and male with an average age of 29 years (range, 8 to 64 years old). Interestingly, 41 of the patients (50.6 percent) who presented to this trauma center as a result of powered watercraft collisions also sustained associated head and neck trauma. Of 74 injuries 24 were facial fractures (32.4 percent), 18 were facial lacerations (24.3 percent), 14 were closed head injuries (18.9 percent), 8 were skull fractures (10.8 percent), 4 were scalp lacerations (5.4 percent), 4 were C-spine fractures (5.4 percent), 1 was an ear laceration (1.4 percent), and 1 was a fatality (1.4 percent). Le Fort fractures were the most commonly identified facial fracture in this series. The number of these injuries seen in hospital emergency rooms will most likely increase in the future as the popularity of water-related recreational activities becomes even more widespread. Based on these findings, it is strongly recommended that future efforts be directed toward the prevention of these injuries through patient education and the eventual development of efficacious and safe protective equipment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas