Mortality and morbidity in white water rafting in New Zealand

Inj Control Saf Promot. 2002 Sep;9(3):193-8. doi: 10.1076/icsp.


Objectives: This study provides the first descriptive overview of fatal and non-fatal injury associated with white water and other recreational river rafting in New Zealand. The current study sought to identify the nature and causes of hospitalisable injuries and to identify the causes of fatal injuries to white water rafters.

Design: The data were obtained from the New Zealand Health Information Service (NZHIS) mortality and morbidity files. Mortality data for the period from 1983 to 1995 and morbidity data from 1983-1996 were used.

Participants: Members of the public who took part in white water and other recreational river rafting activities throughout the above periods.

Results: Of the 33 fatalities, over 80% were male. Almost all the fatalities involved drowning, more than a third resulting from the raft capsizing. Nearly half of the 215 hospitalisations resulted from fractures, victims spending an average of 3.3 days in hospital. The effects of submersion, and intracranial injuries were the next most common categories.

Conclusions and implications: In relation to fatalities, the potentially modifiable risk factors involve improved resistance to raft capsizing, and equipment and skills required to stay afloat. In relation to injuries, the potentially modifiable risk factors relate mainly to preventing slipping and falling through the design of footwear, protective equipment, and procedures for entry and egress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Athletic Injuries / complications*
  • Athletic Injuries / mortality*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Recreation*
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Trauma Severity Indices