Personal watercraft-related injuries. A growing public health concern

JAMA. 1997 Aug 27;278(8):663-5.


Context: An increase in the recreational use of personal watercraft (PWC) raises concern about an increase in associated injuries on a national level.

Objective: To estimate the relative frequency, types of injury, and demographic features of persons injured while using PWC in the United States.

Design: Case series.

Setting: Emergency department (ED) visits to hospitals participating a national probability sample.

Participants: All persons treated for PWC-related injury from January 1,1990, through December 31, 1995.

Results: An estimated 32954 persons (95% confidence interval [CI], 22919-42989) with PWC-related injuries were treated in US hospital EDs, of which 3.5% were hospitalized. Personal watercraft-related injuries have increased significantly from an estimated 2860 in 1990 to more than 12000 in 1995. During this period, the number of PWC in operation increased 3-fold from approximately 241500 in 1990 to an estimated 760000 in 1995. The most prevalent diagnoses were lacerations, contusions, and fractures.

Main outcome measures: The estimated number and percentage of patients treated in EDs for PWC-related injuries, by year, age, sex, and the number and rate per 1000 of PWC in operation by year.

Conclusions: Since 1990, there has been at least a 4-fold increase in injuries associated with an increase in the recreational use of PWC. The rate of ED-treated injuries related to PWC was about 8.5 times higher (95% CI, 8.2-8.8; 1992 data) than the rate of those from motorboats. Specific training and adult supervision is recommended for minors using PWC. Furthermore, medical practitioners should encourage personal flotation device use and other protection for their patients who are known water enthusiasts.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Recreation*
  • Ships
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Water*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*


  • Water