Strapped to a high-performance kite a kiteboarder can surf across the ocean and get seriously big air, all while throwing amazing maneuvers. By being strapped to a kite the hang time for kiteboarding “big airs” is often long, thus allowing competitors to perform aerial tricks with more expressive style, grace and complexity. But, this all comes with a price tag … in other words the increased risk of injury!
It is important to avoid the injury or at least know how to avoid the risky situations, recognize the injury, and manage it correctly when it occurs.
A relatively new extreme sport, kiteboarding hasn’t received the kind of scientific scrutiny found with other more traditional sports. Currently, the pattern and rate of kiteboarding injuries are largely unclear, but according to a 6-month study that included 235 kiteboarders, this new water activity can be considered a high-risk sport (Nickel, 2004).
According to the statistics there are 7 injuries for every 1000 hours of practice but this is doubled in competition time (16.5 injuries for every 1000 hours of competition) (Nickel, 2004).
The most common cause of injury is a lost of control of the kite due to technical mistakes, oversized kites, or overpowering wind condition, causing a direct trauma against things such as stones, boats, and windsurfers on the water or beach (Petersen, 2002).
In a study performed by Nickel (2004) it was found that 56% of kiting injuries were attributed to the inability to detach from the harness or quickly de-power the kite. The injuries that did occur where the kite-surfer was able to activate a quick release mechanism were not as severe. This seems to be confirmed in a study performed in South Africa (Exadaktylos, 2005) were 25/30 patients were not able to detach from the kite.
The most common areas to be injured are:
The type of injuries encountered with kiting
- The foot, ankle and the knee (45%); injuries in this region occur when the rider is thrown from the board or the board is twisted under the rider by the force of a landing or by a wave.
- The head (18%) most head injuries occurred in those not wearing a helmet and wearing a board-leash which resulted in the board being jerked back into the head.
- Neck injuries included whiplash to muscle strain.
- Back pain/strain often occurred from pumping up the kite but may extend to spinal fractures from shore landing
- The chest/ trunk (16%)
- The upper extremity (18%): Injuries here range from simple overuse, tennis elbow or epicondylosis to shoulder dislocations
Contusions, lacerations and abrasions seem to make up the most common superficial injuries (37%) most often from being lofted on land or by a strong on-shore gust and then landing on rocks and shore structures.
Sprains and strains make up about 26% of the kite surfing related injuries.
Fractures make up 14% of injuries related to kiting.
So, in summary, the most common situation of injury usually seems to include an experienced kite-surfer, an on-shore wind and either on the initial launch of the kite or on a transition jump close to the shore.
Any areas may be affected by injury but for most kitesurfers the lower limb is most at risk.
Protection gear in the form of a helmet, a wet-suit and chest armor would still be highly recommended for the upper body.