A survey of injuries and medical conditions affecting competitive adult outrigger canoe paddlers on O'ahu.
Outrigger canoe paddling is a very popular competitive sport in the Hawaiian Islands and Polynesia. The sport is growing rapidly in Australia and the mainland US. To assess the types and severity of musculoskeletal injuries and medical conditions that affect adult outrigger canoe paddlers on O'ahu, Hawai'i. A survey was designed to assess outrigger canoe paddling injuries and medical conditions based upon a literature review of medical conditions that affect other paddling sport athletes (e.g., rowers, kayakers, and canoeists). The data were compiled and analyzed using statistical software. Surveys were completed by 278 (142 women, 145 men) (9.5%) of the 3,068 registered O'ahu adult paddlers during the summer of 2006. The subjects' mean age was 39 years (range = 18-72 years). Sixty-two percent of respondents had experienced paddling-related musculoskeletal injuries. The most common sites of involvement were shoulder (40%), and back (26%), followed by wrist/hand (10%), elbow (9%), and neck (9%). Forty-nine percent of participants experienced skin lacerations, 33% developed heat illness, 32% sustained injuries from exposure to coral or sea creatures, and 24% developed skin infections. Ten percent of subjects reported prior histories of skin cancer or precancerous lesions. There was no statistically significant increase in injuries when comparing age groups, sex, or boat position. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of injuries in those that paddled in the long and short distance seasons over those that paddled only short distance. Short distance races are sprints less than 2000 meters and long distance races are endurance events usually 20 to 30 kilometers with some more than 40 kilometers. There were also more injuries reported in the first season compared with the second season and in the third or later season as compared with the second, although this may be due to limitations of the survey design. Outrigger canoe paddlers report a high prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses related to their sport. The shoulder and back were the most common sites of injury. The rib was the most commonly fractured bone. Paddling may also predispose to such environmentally related conditions as heat illness, injury from sea creatures, and perhaps skin cancers. SIGNIFICANCE OF FINDINGS: To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to identify the medical conditions that affect adult competitive outrigger canoe paddlers on O'ahu. The findings will help paddlers, coaches, and medical practitioners to better identify and understand paddling-related injuries and illnesses.