Analysis of water sports injuries admitted to a pediatric trauma center: a 13 year experience

Thomas A. Boyle, Kittu A. Rao, Davis B. Horkan, Marguerite L. Bandeian, Juan E Sola, Charles A. Karcutskie, Casey Allen, Eduardo Perez, Edward Lineen, Anthony Richard Hogan, Holly Neville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children and adolescents. Injuries occurring during boating and recreational water sports are poorly described in the literature. Herein, we compare injuries from water sports to those resulting from motor vehicle collisions, which are better described in existing literature. Methods: A retrospective review of 1935 consecutive pediatric trauma patients, as defined by age < 18 years, admitted to a single level-1 pediatric trauma center between January 2000 and August 2013 was performed. Patients were divided into two cohorts based on the mechanism of injury: water sports injury (WSI) or motor vehicle collision (MVC). Demographics, injury descriptors, and outcomes were reviewed for each patient. Categorical variables were compared by Chi square or Fisher’s exact test, and continuous by t test or Mann–Whitney U test. Parametric data are reported as mean ± standard deviation and nonparametric as median (interquartile range). Significance was set at alpha level 0.05. Results: A total of 18 pediatric patients were admitted for WSI and 615 for MVC during the study period. Among those with WSI, mean age was 12 ± 4 years, mean Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 11 ± 10, and mean Revised Trauma Score (RTS) was 7.841(IQR 6.055–7.841). 44% of WSI occurred by personal watercraft (Jet Ski, WaveRunner), 39% by boat, and 17% by other means (e.g., diving, tubing, kite surfing). Overall, the most common WSI included skin/soft-tissue lacerations (59%), head injury/concussion (33%), tendon/ligament lacerations (28%), and extremity fractures (28%). Compared to 615 patients admitted for MVC, age, sex, race, Glasgow Coma Scale, ISS, RTS, spleen and liver laceration rates, neurosurgical consultation, ICU admission, ICU and total length of stay, and mortality were similar. Patients with WSI were more likely to be tourists (44% vs. 5%, p < 0.001). Those with WSI showed a significantly higher requirement for any surgical intervention (61% vs. 15%, p = 0.001). The rate of open fracture (28% vs. 6%, p = 0.006) and, subsequently, orthopedic procedures (39% vs. 17%, p = 0.027) were also higher in the WSI group. Conclusion: Overall, water sports injuries are similar in in-hospital mortality to motor vehicle collisions. They are more likely to result in penetrating trauma and more likely to require surgical intervention. Primary and secondary prevention strategies should specifically target personal watercraft usage and tourist populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Surgery International
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Boat
  • Motor vehicle
  • Pediatrics
  • Personal watercraft
  • Trauma
  • Water sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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