Injuries on offshore cruising sailboats: analysis for means of prevention

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No studies have been performed on cruising sailors who spend most of the year on offshore cruising sailboats. To gain a better understanding of this population, traumatic events occurring in this group of sailors were studied to define appropriate means of prevention.

Design, setting and patients:

Primary care data were collected prospectively using a questionnaire during in-depth interviews by one of the authors (FM) of 100 cruising sailboat crews that called at Martinique between December 2001 and May 2002.

Main outcome measurements:

In total, 56 injuries were reported: 20 involved the upper limb, 20 the lower limb, and 7 the head and neck. There were also 19 burns, 11 of which were photoinduced and 8 accidental. There were 16 skin infections, 3 of which were complicated by arthritis.


After analysis, we found that most of these injuries could be prevented if the following recommendations were applied. Wearing shoes would avoid foot injuries. A hatch cover would effectively protect from cranial trauma caused by the boom. To protect from the sun, a bimini top (cover to shield the cockpit) would be most effective. A windlass would avoid hand injuries and acute lower back pain. Lastly, meticulous wound care until complete healing would prevent the common complications of skin superinfections.


Injuries to professional seafarers and ocean racers are well described, but the increasingly growing cruising sailor population has not been well studied. Development of easy and inexpensive worldwide network connection will allow better follow-up of this mobile population.

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