Rapid Surf & Ski

The Most Common Wakeboarding and Water Skiing Injuries

Like most sports, there are inherent risks associated with water skiing and wakeboarding. Many of these are associated with being “dunked”; the impact of a fall on water at high speeds can be surprisingly damaging. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common injuries on both wakeboards and water skis, as well as a few safety measures that can be put in place to lessen their effects or even avoid accidents altogether.

Water skiing injuries

The most common type of water skiing injuries are ankle strains and sprains. Because the ankles are bound to the skis, the impact of a fall can place undue pressure on ankle ligaments as the skis go in one direction and the skier’s body another. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, ankle sprains and strains account for approximately one in five of all water skiing injuries.

The next most common injury for water skiers is a laceration of the head and neck area, which accounted for about one in 10 of all water skiing injuries. Because the head and neck region is one of the few areas exposed while water skiing (due to the fact that most skiers are wearing wetsuits), this opens the area up to cuts and lacerations when falling, whether from impacting the water, tow handle, jumps, buoys or the skis themselves.

Other common injuries for water skiers included concussions (always wear a life jacket when water skiing!) and shoulder sprains and strains.

Wakeboarding injuries

The stance of a wakeboarder differs to that of a water skier and, as such, the injuries are slightly different as well. The most common type of injury for a wakeboarder occurs in the head and neck area, with head lacerations making up around one in four of all wakeboarding injuries and concussions making up around one in nine. This is because of the higher danger of “catching an edge” on wakeboards; if a wakeboarder catches an edge, they will be thrown hard into the water, with the heaviest surface impact occurring at the head.

With that said, ankle sprains were not entirely uncommon, accounting for around one in 10 of all wakeboarding injuries, while leg fractures and shoulder dislocations accounted for about one in 20.

Accident and injury prevention

Ways to prevent water skiing and wakeboarding injuries include:

  • Having two people in the boat — a driver and a spotter. The driver should be able to watch where he is driving at all times — he cannot do this if he has to check back at the skier every now and then.
  • Always checking the towline before skiing to make sure it is neither caught in the propeller or wrapped around the skier. The boat driver should never accelerate until the skier is holding the handle and gives a signal to begin.
  • Keeping a reasonable speed. This may be a judgement call by the driver based on the skier’s ability — a good speed for beginners, for example, is about 30 kilometres per hour. However, the driver will also need to know and obey the speed laws of the water they are on.

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