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6 Tips for Summer Water Sports Safety and Injury Prevention

When summer weather hits, most of us can’t wait to get out on the water and enjoy outdoor water sports. But from water skiing and jet skiing, to kayaking and swimming pool games, it’s important to practice water sports safety.

Water injuries are common at this time of year. Most of us think of drowning when we think of aquatic injuries, but head and orthopedic injuries are common water sports injuries too. It’s essential to follow these water safety tips to prevent injuries and accidents of all types.

If you sustain an orthopedic injury while engaging in aquatic sports, our team at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin is here to help. We have trained and caring practitioners ready to get you back to fun in the sun quickly. In the meantime, follow these water sports safety tips to keep injuries at bay.

1. Know How to Swim

The biggest water safety tip is that you need to know swimming basics before going out on the water. Drowning is, of course, a huge concern, especially in open water. Swimming and engaging in outdoor water sports are very different from pool sessions at your local gym. Currents can come swift and sudden, and there may or may not be a lifeguard on duty.

Many people feel overly comfortable on a jetski or when water skiing, paddleboarding, or kayaking because they don’t “need” to swim. But any time you’re on the water, you can easily fall in. Brush up on your basic swim safety before finding yourself in an unsafe situation.

2. Always Take a Buddy

Similarly, it’s also vital to never engage in aquatic sports alone. Even solo outdoor water sports like swimming call for the buddy system. Going for a solo dip in the lake or pool may sound like a great way to cool off, but always be sure someone knows where you are and is nearby should you need help.

When you take out a boat or kayak, be sure to let someone else know where you are going (at the very least) and take proper safety equipment with you. If you plan to take a boat out alone, be sure you always have a locator beacon and a whistle on your person. Wear a life jacket the entire time you’re on the water. Remember, it’s always better to bring along a friend.

3. Stay Alert

It may be tempting to enjoy a few adult beverages when you’re out on the water, but intoxication and aquatic sports are a recipe for disaster. About half of all boating injuries are due to intoxication. One of the best water safety tips is to stay alert and sober. Alcohol can slow your response and lead you to engage in riskier behavior, so play it safe.

On the same note, stay aware of your surroundings, water, and weather conditions. Check all conditions and alerts before going out. Once you’re engaged in water sports, pay attention to your proximity to boat motors and your position on the equipment. When water skiing, jet skiing, rafting, or surfing, be sure to use the proper form and avoid risky behavior.

4. Play in Familiar Surroundings

When you engage in outdoor water sports, be sure you’re familiar with your surroundings. You should know the area’s rules, the depth of the water, and the lay of the land (or water) before you take a dip. Some bodies of water feature restrictions on wake, motors, or open swimming. Other spots may have sudden drops or swift currents, especially after a rainstorm.

It’s also crucial that you’re familiar with the area, especially if you’re playing aquatic sports in open water. If you’re camping somewhere new, be aware of where the closest hospital is and where you can access first aid equipment. Should someone sustain an injury, you’ll want to know how to get help quickly.

5. Wear Protective Gear

A key to preventing any sport-related injury is to wear protective gear. It’s one of the best water sports safety tips—wear a life preserver or flotation device during most water-bound activities. Non-slip water shoes or deck shoes are also advisable when you’re engaged in water sports and aquatic activities. You’ll protect yourself from ankle twists, slips, and fall injuries, as well as cuts and abrasions.

If you’re engaged in more dangerous water sports, like jet skiing or water skiing, you should also wear additional protective gear, including goggles and, in some cases, a helmet. Research before you try a new water sport to ensure you have the right equipment to play safely.

6. Stay Within Your Limits

You know your limits and what you should or shouldn’t try. The water can often be deceiving, thanks to buoyancy (which is why pool-based physical therapy can be easier for some patients). In the water, you may find it easier to move.

Keep in mind that you should still avoid overdoing it or pushing yourself too far. You might overlook muscle strains and other injuries until you’re back on dry land. Take some time to stretch and hydrate before you go into the water. Once you’re engaged in water sports, be sure to periodically check in with your body to make sure you’re feeling great.

Getting in the water is one of the best parts of the summer. Don’t miss out on water sports because an unexpected injury sidelines you. Play it safe with these water safety tips so that you can enjoy the fun all summer long.

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