Summer. It opens the doors to a seemingly countless number of outdoor activities and pursuits, and the only problem is that it might feel like there’s not enough time to take advantage of them all. For some of you lucky enough to have a boat or a friend/family member that owns one, your summer activity-of-choice may be wakeboarding or water skiing—or both—making you eager to get on the water as soon as possible. At ARS Hand & Physical Therapy, our physical and occupational therapists are big fans of both sports—owner Jason Furia is actually a wakeboarder himself—but we also want you to be aware of some of their associated injury risks and what you can do to prevent them.
Water skiing has been around since 1922, while wakeboarding had a much more recent berth in the mid-1980s, but both have grown to be incredibly popular sports for many individuals with access to a body of water and a boat. In their evolution, technology of the board/skis and boots/bindings has advanced significantly and improved the safety of the sports, but the risk for injury is still present just like every other sport. Most water skiing and wakeboarding injuries result from the impact of a fall on the water while being towed at high speeds, which can be especially dangerous if the fall occurs in an awkward position.
By far the most common water skiing injuries are strains and sprains to the ankle. These injuries occur because the feet are bound to the skis, so the impact of a fall can place a great amount of pressure on the ankles as the skis go in one direction and the skier’s body in another. Ankle sprains and strains account for about one of every five water skiing injuries, and more serious injuries to the ankle like fractures and ligament tears are also possible when falls occur at extremely high speeds. Other common water skiing injuries include shoulder sprains, strains and dislocations, Achilles tendinitis and tendon tears, concussions, ACL injuries and other knee injuries, back pain and lacerations.
The stance for wakeboarding is different than it is for water skiing—with the boarder’s body facing sideways instead of straight— and the most typical injuries are therefore a
bit different as well. Ankle injuries are fairly common, but not nearly as common as they are in water skiing. Instead, injuries to the head and neck, as well as ACL sprains and tears, are seen most frequently in wakeboarders. Head and neck injuries are usually due to “catching an edge” and hitting the water head-down first, while ACL injuries result from landing an air in a bad position. Other common wakeboarding injuries include shoulder strains, sprains and dislocations, other knee injuries, hip injuries and fractures.
Just as in every other sport, it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk for injury in water skiing and wakeboarding, but there are some basic steps you can take to significantly lower it. Our physical and occupational therapists recommend the following:
- Use proper safety equipment and make sure the board/skis and boots/bindings are in working shape and fit properly
- Keep a reasonable speed at all times—based on the skill level of the skier/boarder—and steer clear of other boats and people in the water
- Make sure there is always at least one additional person on the boat aside from the driver to take the position of spotter; the spotter watches the rider and communicates with both to help avoid any hazards and to guide the driver on whether to change the speed of the boat or keep it steady
- Always check the towline (rope) to make sure it’s not caught on the skier or propeller before starting each ride
- If you’re new to either sport, get some advice on how to use proper form and technique; be sure to keep your knees bent and don’t lean too far forward on water skis to avoid a fall
At ARS Hand & Physical Therapy, our physical and occupational therapists invite you to bask in your time on the water if wakeboarding or water skiing is up your alley, but just be sure to exercise caution while doing so to avoid being sidelined for the rest of the summer. For additional guidance on how to prevent injuries in these or any other sports, or to address any nagging pain you may be dealing with, contact us at 973-379-7006 to schedule an appointment today. Click here for more information on water skiing or wakeboarding injuries.