Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028


What are Sailing Injuries?

Sailors are at risk for injury due to the repetitive and physical nature of this leisurely pastime. Injuries related to upper-limb overuse are among the most common. Falls on the boat or pier occur as well. Fingers or hands may get caught between the boat and the pier. Injuries handling the sheets, windless, cleats, tiller, and anchor may happen.

Types of Sailing Injuries

Cuts, rope burns, muscle strains, finger, wrist, and elbow sprains, and wrist and elbow fractures and dislocations may occur when greater force is involved.

Phalangeal fractures (finger fractures) are not uncommon. Some of the more common fractures to the fingers include:

  • Dislocation with a fracture: gross misalignment of a joint with broken bones
  • Transverse fracture: the finger bone is broken in a horizontal line.
  • Spiral fracture: the finger has been caught and twisted, resulted in a spiral break.
  • Oblique fracture: the break occurs diagonally across the bone.
  • Compression fracture: a common type of phalangeal fracture where the bone is crushed, such as if it has been slammed in a door.
  • Comminuted fracture: the bone has broken into three or more pieces.
  • Segmental fracture: the finger bone has been broken in two locations, leaving a portion of the bone “floating” between.
  • Tuft Fracture: a tip fracture usually related to a crush.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Sailing Injuries

Many patients are not immediately aware of an injury requiring treatment, Some fractures and ligament injuries may be more obvious due to a deformity, swelling, and limited range of motion.

Causes of Sailing Injuries

While tripping and falling are common ways to injure yourself on a sailboat, getting caught in the lines is the most common mechanism of injury. This accounts for approximately 30% of hand injuries, such as rope burn. Fractures and lacerations can also be caused by incorrectly setting or releasing line tension.

Getting a Diagnosis for Sailing Injuries

When a patient presents with finger deformity, swelling, or incorrect anatomical position, they will commonly have the injured area x-rayed. An MRI may be ordered to aid in visualizing fractures and ligamentous injuries.

Consult with an experienced hand surgeon following an injury while sailing. Delayed medical intervention could result in greater loss of hand function or range of motion.

Treatment Options for Sailing Injuries

Splinting, rest and taping are useful for some simple injuries. Same-day surgery may be required for complex fractures or ligamentous injuries. In most cases, non-surgical interventions are successful in producing lasting success.

Conservative Treatments

Immobilization of the affected region is an effective treatment plan for low grade strains. Some injuries may benefit from a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation. NSAIDs are beneficial in providing pain relief for patients experiencing swelling and pain.

Surgical Treatments

Same-day procedures utilizing regional or local anesthesia sometimes with sedation to reduce fractures may be required in certain instances. An experienced hand surgeon will be able to advise you on the nature of your injury and what procedures are available to maximize recovery. Delay in medical intervention could result in injuries that may be more complex to repair with suboptimal results.

Preventing an Injury while Sailing

In order to reduce sailing accidents, sailors ought to apply best techniques and common sense, following the rules of proper sailing. Personal physical conditioning is essential.

Some of these measures include:

  • Maintaining boat safety equipment properly.
  • Monitoring weather and water conditions.
  • Maintain a safe speed.
  • Follow all sailing and navigation laws.

Prognosis for Sailing Injuries

Most injuries are non-serious and will heal quickly with proper diagnosis and treatment. Even complex problems generally recover quicker using minimally invasive surgery. Physical therapy may be recommended depending on the severity of the injury and personal functional goals.  

If You Believe You Have a Sailing Injury Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People experiencing Injuries from sailing ought to be evaluated to optimize recovery and limit further injury and mobility issues.

If you have been hurt, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and obtain an accurate diagnosis.