Courtnay Epp, Alberta Health Services Health Promotion Facilitator - Nothing beats getting out in a boat on a hot summer day to enjoy water-sport activities. There is no doubt that tubing, wake-boarding, jet and water skiing are all fun summer activities.
However, water sports carry some level of injury risk due to their very nature. High speeds, skill level and experience, changing weather, poor quality or lack of equipment, and collisions with objects, people, or other boaters can all influence how safe you are out on the water.
Strains and sprains to the lower extremities, lacerations, and concussions are all common injuries seen in those participating in water sports, but getting injured should not be an accepted part of the fun. We all know taking risks is a part of life and are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, taking risks can be an important part of gaining experience and self-confidence.
However, most injuries are predictable and preventable. Therefore, the Alberta Health Services Provincial Injury Prevention Program (PIPP) encourages you to take a SMARTRISK approach to injury prevention. The next time you plan to go out on the water, always keep these 6 key messages in mind:
- Look First Take a moment to stop and think about the situation. Understand the risks so you can plan to manage them. Look for obstacles on the water like floating drift wood and take a survey of how many other boaters there are. Observe the water and weather conditions and be aware of your surroundings.
- Wear the Gear Wearing the gear helps protect your body while you enjoy an activity. Protective equipment like goggles, wetsuits and lifejackets are made for a reason. Take sports seriously. A personal flotation device could save your life.
- Get Trained First time out on water-skis? Know before you go. Developing your skills through training and practice can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Have someone teach you where the risks lie so you can learn to manage those risks when you are out on the water.
- Buckle Up Buckles are designed to protect you everywhere, not just in cars. Be sure to buckle up that lifejacket.
- Drive Sober Always ensure you have a sober skipper. Driving sober means being fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any vehicle, including boats. It means driving without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, or distractions like cell phones.
- Seek Help It is okay to ask for help- even when you are having fun. Participating in water sports can be challenging, even for the seasoned athlete. Look for support when you need it. Remember, there are no stupid questions- only the ones you do not ask!
When you are out on the water having fun this summer, keep in mind that most injuries are predictable and preventable. Reduce your potential for injury and take SMARTRISKs.
For more information please visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/injuryprevention.asp