Millions of people are drawn to the beaches of Hawaii each year for sun and surfing, even with the threat of spinal cord injuries lurking from one bad fall.
Traffic crashes, falls, violence and sports injuries are the main causes of spinal cord injuries, most of which are preventable, according to the Mayo Clinic.Yet each year, some 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide sustain injuries in which the vertebrae, ligaments or disks in the spinal column or the spinal cord are damaged, the World Health Organization reports.
The waves that attract swimmers and surfers to Hawaii don’t have to be big to cause damage. In fact, experts say inexperienced people who go over small waves headfirst are most likely to suffer spinal cord injuries.
A sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that breaks, dislocates, crushes or compresses the vertebrae can cause a traumatic spinal cord injury. These injuries are likely to take place in car accidents and even football games. A gunshot or knife wound that penetrates or cuts the spinal cord can cause a similar injury, and additional damage can occur for days and weeks because of bleeding, swelling and inflammation.
Common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Hawaii’s pounding surf
Contrary to popular belief, the popular surfing spot of Sandy Beach in Oahu isn’t the most likely place for broken necks and backs on the Hawaiian Islands, according to a Star Bulletin article. That distinction belongs to Hapuna Beach in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s most dangerous beaches for spinal cord injuries are:
Most of the 11 swimmers or body boarders who suffered spinal injuries at Hapuna from 2001 to 2006 were hurt in waves no higher than 4 feet, according to West Hawaii District Capt. Chris Stelfox of the Ocean Safety Division.
Even though medium-size waves can seem harmless, they break over knee-deep water “really hard,” causing inexperienced swimmers and surfers to fall head first into the bottom, Stelfox said.
That can lead to trauma to the spine and serious injury, with symptoms including partial or complete loss of sensory functions or motor control of the arms, legs and body.
According to a recent news report, a 17-year-old Arizona teenager was on a family vacation in Hawaii in July and suffered a spinal injury when doing somersaults into the waves at Kaanapali Beach. When a wave turned out to be less deep than anticipated, the teen, who was captain of his swim team, somersaulted and landed head first in the sand and injured his C-5 vertebrae. The teen’s vertebra was bruised rather than fractured as initially thought and he has regained some movement in his feet while in a hospital in Maui.
Failure to receive the proper care and treatment immediately and in the long term can cause spinal cord injuries to grow worse, according to the World Health Organization. Important measures are:
A spinal cord injury could occur as a result of a car accident caused by another driver or surfing accident.
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence of another, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you determine if you are eligible for financial compensation. You will need help navigating the legal system to ensure you receive an award that will enable you to cope with the injury the best way possible.