PWS Accident Study in AMA Journal

PWC Accident Study

The 27 August 1997 issue of the American Medical Association Journal reported a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on PWC injuries. The study was heavily reported in the national press.

RBBI Comment: The general public associaties boating, jet skiing, water skiing, wake boarding all with boating. PWC injuries and the resulting press (like this) will not be good for the boating industry.

U.S. Jet Ski Injuries Rising Sharply Reuters 26 Aug 1997

Injuries from Personal Water Craft Increase Dramatically AMA press release 27 August 1997

Personal Water Craft - Related Injuries AMA Journal abstract of article in 27 August 1997 issue pgs 663-665.

Dangerous watercraft USA Today 8 August 1997

U.S. Jet Ski Injuries Rising Sharply

Aug 26, 1997 
CHICAGO(Reuter) - Jet ski injuries increased four-fold in recent years as numbers of the popular watercraft mushroomed, a report saidTuesday.

Injuries rose to 12,000 in 1995 from an estimated 2,860 in 1990, while the number of so-called personal watercraft operated in the United States grew to 760,000 from 241,500, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The injuries -- most frequently lacerations, contusions and broken bones -- run more than eight times higher than those associated with motorboats, said the report published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors suggested more training for operators would reduce injuries.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. 

AMA Press 27 Aug 1997 Release for the article:


CHICAGO- Personal watercraft (PWC) injuries have increased four fold in a five-year period and users are eight times more likely to suffer an injury than people on motorboats, according to an article in the August 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Christine M. Branche, Ph.D., from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga., and colleagues estimated the relative frequency, types of injury and demographic features of persons injured while using PWC in the U.S. The study included data on people treated for PWC-related injuries (an estimated 32,954) from January 1, 1990 through December 31, 1995. The most common injuries from PWC (often known as a jet ski) are lacerations, contusions, and fractures.

The authors write: "Based on national estimates, injuries associated with PWC use have increased four-fold from an estimated 2,860 in 1990 to more than 12,000 in 1995. During the same period, there was a three-fold increase in the number of PWC in operation from approximately 241,500 in 1990 to an estimated 760,000 in 1995 ... The rate of injuries related to PWC treated in emergency departments (EDs) was about 8.5 times higher than the rate of ED-treated injuries from motorboats."

The researchers note that the use of PWC in water recreation is relatively new, but has increased rapidly since 1990. Personal watercraft are less than 13 feet in length and are designed to be operated by persons sitting, standing, or kneeling on the craft instead of within the confines of the hull. These watercraft are cheaper, allow swifter movement and attain faster speeds in less time compared with larger, motor-driven boats.

The authors offer several recommendations to help prevent injuries to PWC users. "Specific training for PWC users would be appropriate, much like training that is offered for persons operating boats. Given the fast speeds that can be achieved on PWC, training requirements and enforcement may reduce the number of injuries considerably."

Other recommendations by the authors include adult supervision of minors who use PWC, extending right-of-way guidelines currently in place for boat operators to PWC users, implementing guidelines for maintaining safe distances and speeds and emphasizing the importance of wearing life jackets. They add that more research is needed to determine the appropriate method for both head and extremity protection.

The correlation between alcohol use and PWC injuries was not determined in this study.

Of the PWC-related injuries severe enough to require hospitalization (1,155 patients), 32 percent occurred after falling off the PWC and 33 percent after collisions. Seventy-five percent of the collisions were between PWC.


AMA abstract of the article:

[Abstract, Aug 27 JAMA. 1997;278:663-665] (c) AMA 1997
Abstracts - August 27, 1997

Personal Watercraft-Related Injuries

A Growing Public Health Concern

Christine M. Branche, PhD; Judith M. Conn, MS, MBA; Joseph L. Annest, PhD

Context An increase in the recreational use of personal watercraft (PWC) raises concern about an increase in associated injuries on a national level.

Objective To estimate the relative frequency, types of injury, and demographic features of persons injured while using PWC in the United States.

DesignSetting Emergency department (ED) visits to hospitals participating a national probability sample.

Participants All persons treated for PWC-related injury from January 1, 1990, through December 31, 1995.

Results An estimated 32 954 persons (95% confidence interval [CI], 22 919-42 989) with PWC-related injuries were treated in US hospital EDs, of which 3.5% were hospitalized. Personal watercraft-related injuries have increased significantly from an estimated 2860 in 1990 to more than 12,000 in 1995. During this period, the number of PWC in operation increased 3-fold from approximately 241,500 in 1990 to an estimated 760,000 in 1995. The most prevalent diagnoses were lacerations, contusions, and fractures.

Main Outcome Measures The estimated number and percentage of patients treated in EDs for PWC-related injuries, by year, age, sex, and the number and rate per 1000 of PWC in operation by year.

Conclusions Since 1990, there has been at least a 4-fold increase in injuries associated with an increase in the recreational use of PWC. The rate of ED-treated injuries related to PWC was about 8.5 times higher (95% CI, 8.2-8.8; 1992 data) than the rate of those from motorboats. Specific training and adult supervision is recommended for minors using PWC. Furthermore, medical practitioners should encourage personal flotation device use and other protection for their patients who are known water enthusiasts.

JAMA. 1997;278:663-665

From the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Service, US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Ga.

EDITOR'S NOTE. Health problems may emerge as a result of new technology or the popularization of new technology. This study of personal watercraft injuries relies on a national emergency department database to demonstrate that as the number of personal watercraft in operation has increased, the number of injuries has increased as well. Although the operating environment of personal watercraft is quite different from that of analogous vehicles, such as motorcycles and snowmobiles, some of the risk factors for injury may be similar. A disappointing shortcoming of this study is the lack of information about alcohol use.

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Contents  copyright 1997 American Medical Association

Dangerous watercraft

8 August 1997
About 760,000 personal watercraft (Jet Ski, Waverunner, etc.)
are in use, with nearly 200,000 PWCs sold last year. PWC share
of boat accidents, injuries and deaths in 1996:

Total Involve PWC Percent PWC Boating accidents 8,574 3,079 35.9% Injury accidents 3,995 1,316 32.9% Fatal accidents 591 55 9.3% Copyright 1997, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc.

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