Water Skiing

01 Overview

Water skiing is a sport involving riding on one or two skis while being pulled behind a boat. Expert water skiers often compete in three categories: slalom, tricks, and jumps. Water skiing is coordinated locally by volunteers through Water Ski and Wakeboard BC, and is a sport in the BC Summer Games. While there is risk for physical injury in water skiing, there is strong evidence that these injuries can be prevented.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Lacerations to the head and neck, and concussions, are common among water skiers due to making contact with the water, tow handle, jumps, buoys, or the water skis.

Shoulder dislocations, and sprains, strains, contusions, abrasions, and fractures in the upper extremities are common injuries in water skiing.

Injuries to the back and trunk in water skiing include contusions, abrasions, strains, sprains, low back pain, and fractures.

Known as douche or enema injuries, injury can occur when the skier falls into the water at high speed forcing water into the vagina or rectum. Vaginal, perineal and rectal injuries can include lacerations, perforations and internal organ damage.

Ankle strains and sprains are some of the most common injuries in water skiing. The skier’s ankles are bound to the water ski with bindings, and the impact of a fall can place pressure on the ankle ligaments.

02 Injury Statistics

Common injuries in water skiing occur to the head and face, upper extremities, back and trunk, and lower extremities. In competitive water skiing, slalom skiing has a higher risk of injury as compared to jump and trick water skiing.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

Potential risk factors for injuries from water skiing include: improper equipment, level of experience, education, fitness level, and the number of hours of skiing competition or practice.

  • Environment

    Inclement weather and water conditions, or skiing in unrestricted areas pose a risk to water skiers.

  • Level of Experience

    The type of injury sustained varies depending on level of experience, and whether the skier is participating recreationally or competitively. Novice skiers have a higher risk of douche or enema injuries during takeoff, and expert skiers have a higher risk of knee, back, and shoulder injuries from falling.

  • Alcohol Consumption

    Water skiing or operating a boat under the influence of alcohol can increase risk of injury.

  • Exposure Hours

    The more time spent water skiing, or participating in more than one water skiing event a day, can increase your risk of injury.

  • Lack of Equipment

    Not wearing protective gear, such as a lifejacket or personal flotation device, can increase your risk of injury.

  • Water Craft Operator

    Lack of knowledge, skill, licensing, or experience on behalf of the boat operator is a risk factor for injury in water skiing. Operators should be knowledgeable on the appropriate acceleration and speed of the boat.

  • Fitness Level

    Low fitness level is a risk for injury, as water skiing requires the body to maintain balance and posture.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in water skiing.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Ensure you warm up before engaging in water skiing; many water skiers move from sedentary positions as boat drivers or spotters to water skiing without exercising. Dry land conditioning is useful for strength conditioning; “skiing into shape” can increase the risk of injury. Other benefits of dry land conditioning include correction of muscular imbalances, rehabilitation of injured muscles and joints, and minimizing strength loss in the off-season.

    Specific Water Skiing Strength and Conditioning Exercises
    Strength and conditioning programs designed for water skiing address postural control, balance, and stability on the skis. Consider learning more about how to incorporate these exercises into your workouts:

    • Tandem squats and tandem deadlifts improve balance.
    • Torso rotations, supine planks, prone planks, and side bridges tone the trunk muscles.
    • Other recommended strength training exercises include wall slides, seated rows, and pull-ups.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and ankle injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in water skiing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Ensure that you have equipment that is in good, working condition. Water skis should be appropriate for the skier’s body weight and height.

    Education
    If you are new to water skiing, take lessons at a reputable school. Be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. Know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about water safety.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Water skiing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Ensure your athletes or students warm up before engaging in water skiing; many water skiers move from sedentary positions as boat drivers or spotters to water skiing without exercising. Dry land conditioning is useful for strength conditioning; “skiing into shape” can increase the risk of injury. Other benefits of dry land conditioning include correction of muscular imbalances, rehabilitation of injured muscles and joints, and minimizing strength loss in the off-season

    Specific Water Skiing Strength and Conditioning Exercises
    Strength and conditioning programs designed for water skiing address postural control, balance, and stability on the skis. Consider incorporating these exercises into your training program:

    • Tandem squats and tandem deadlifts improve balance.
    • Torso rotations, supine planks, prone planks, and side bridges tone the trunk muscles.
    • Other recommended strength training exercises include wall slides, seated rows, and pull-ups.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and ankle injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in water skiing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected.The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Ensure that water skiers have equipment that is in good, working condition. Water skis should be appropriate for the skier’s body weight and height.

    Education
    If participants are new to water skiing, have them take lessons at a reputable school and are familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. They should know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about water safety.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Water skiing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your organization or school, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Ensure your skiers warm up before engaging in water skiing; many water skiers move from sedentary positions as boat drivers or spotters to water skiing without exercising. Dry land conditioning is useful for strength conditioning; “skiing into shape” can increase the risk of injury. Other benefits of dry land conditioning include correction of muscular imbalances, rehabilitation of injured muscles and joints, and minimizing strength loss in the off-season

    Specific Water Skiing Strength and Conditioning Exercises
    Strength and conditioning programs designed for water skiing address postural control, balance, and stability on the skis. Encourage coaches to incorporate these exercises into their training program:

    • Tandem squats and tandem deadlifts improve balance.
    • Torso rotations, supine planks, prone planks, and side bridges tone the trunk muscles.
    • Other recommended strength training exercises include wall slides, seated rows, and pull-ups.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Encouraging coaches to incorporate a warm-up program like this one into their training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and ankle injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in water skiing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Ensure that water skiers have equipment that is in good, working condition. Water skis should be appropriate for the skier’s body weight and height.

    Education
    If participants are new to water skiing, have them take lessons at a reputable school and are familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. They should know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about water safety.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Water skiing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing water skiing injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to participants, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to water skiing to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Encourage water skiers to warm up before starting activity; many water skiers move from sedentary positions as boat drivers or spotters to water skiing without exercising. Dry land conditioning is useful for strength conditioning; “skiing into shape” can increase the risk of injury. Other benefits of dry land conditioning include correction of muscular imbalances, rehabilitation of injured muscles and joints, and minimizing strength loss in the off-season

    Specific Water Skiing Strength and Conditioning Exercises
    Strength and conditioning programs designed for water skiing address postural control, balance, and stability on the skis.

    • Tandem squats and tandem deadlifts improve balance.
    • Torso rotations, supine planks, prone planks, and side bridges tone the trunk muscles.
    • Other recommended strength training exercises include wall slides, seated rows, and pull-ups.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and ankle injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in water skiing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT)is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Encourage skiers to have equipment that is in good, working condition. Water skis should be appropriate for the skier’s body weight and height.

    Education
    Encourage water skiers to take lessons at a reputable school and be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Water skiing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.