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Kitesurfing — playing with water or with fire?

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Kitesurfing is a relatively new water sport that converts wind energy into vertical and horizontal force using a large controllable kite. In optimal conditions, speeds of up to 65 km/h and heights of 20 m are reached.1,2 Impact at these speeds or from this height can lead to severe injuries or death,1 and such accidents have reinforced the image of kitesurfing as a highly dangerous and even reckless sport. Nonetheless, kitesurfing is rapidly gaining popularity and is among the fastest growing water sports worldwide.1

To quantify frequency, injury profiles and severity of kitesurfing-related trauma, we reviewed all patients presenting to the emergency department of the Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia, with traumatic injuries received while kitesurfing between January 2000 and March 2014. Injury severity was graded using the Injury Severity Score (ISS).3 There were 56 presentations (47 men and nine women), with patient ages ranging from 18 to 69 years (mean ± SD, 34.1 ± 11.7). Forty-three patients were regarded as having minor trauma (ISS, 1–8), 12 moderate trauma (ISS, 9–15) and one major trauma (ISS ≥ 16). The lower extremities, upper extremities and spine (13/56) were the most frequently injured body regions (