Injuries, ill-health and fatalities in white water rafting and white water paddling

Sports Med. 2013 Jan;43(1):65-75. doi: 10.1007/s40279-012-0007-8.


White water (WW) activities such as paddling (canoeing and kayaking) and rafting are popular sports for recreational and professional participants. An increase in participation has been seen worldwide. However, these activities come with a risk of injury and even death if not conducted safely. A review was conducted to identify the types of injuries and ill-health that occur as a result of these activities. Injury and fatality rates were assessed to establish the risk attributed to these activities. Web of Science, PubMed, Ergonomics Abstracts and PsycINFO databases were searched and a total of 16 published articles were identified and reviewed. The shoulders and back were the most vulnerable sites for injury in WW paddling. Injuries to the face and lower limbs were most common in WW rafters. However, injury rates are low and estimates are discussed. Due to different methods used across the studies, the reported injury rates are not comparable. This review identified three illnesses incurred through WW activities. There may be more but these are not currently reported in the literature. A relative paucity of studies regarding injuries and fatalities in WW activities was identified. Directions for future research are suggested and discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / mortality
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Drinking
  • Drowning / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology
  • Leptospirosis / etiology
  • Leptospirosis / microbiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal System / injuries
  • Recreation
  • Risk Factors
  • Rivers* / microbiology
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Young Adult