Background check: a worthwhile precaution
PHUKET: It may be worth checking the condition of your back before deciding to take a trip on a speed boat in Phuket. The risk of suffering spinal damage could be higher than you think, particularly as the speed boat slams over large waves during the monsoon season.
Friday 1 July 2011, 07:06AM
Records from some of Phuket’s hospitals show a large number of patients, both Thai and foreign, who come to receive treatment for back injuries sustained after taking a speed boat.
“I personally treated two patients for back injuries last month that had been aggravated by travelling on a speed boat,” Dr Kanison Chaimanekorn, a member of the Diplomate Board of Orthopaedic Surgery at Bangkok Hospital Phuket, said.
“There were several more treated by other doctors for similar injuries.”
He warns that elderly and overweight people are at particular risk, and that people with existing back injuries should avoid speed boat travel if possible.
“People most at risk of these injuries should avoid sitting at the bow of the speedboat in particular, where the impact of going over waves is going to be the hardest,” he said.
The consequences of ignoring this advice can be quite serious. Dr Kanison explained that back pain can be treated with several months of drugs and physiotherapy, but more serious damage can require surgery and many months more of treatment.
A recent case on June 18 saw a 53-year-old Chinese tourist, Xiao Ming Hao, suffer from severe spinal pain after taking a speed boat trip. She had existing spinal problems which were aggravated while on the boat.
Unable to move, she was immediately airlifted from Koh Racha Yai Island to Phuket where she underwent spinal surgery at Vachira Hospital.
“She sat at the bow of the boat,” Ladda Tongtan, the head nurse of Vachira’s Naranethorn Rescue Centre, told The Phuket News.
“Her back smashed against the seat when the boat was driven against a large wave. She suffered fractures to her spine which required immediate surgery. She has been in hospital nearly two weeks, and has still not recovered full movement of her body.”
Kritsada Pichetpongsanon, President of the Phuket Speed Boat Association, said boat operators were always concerned for the safety of passengers.
“We don’t recommend anyone who has back problems to join a speed boat trip. But if the passengers insist, we will give them a seat at the stern of the boat, where the impact is reduced.”
Mr Kritsada said the monsoon season was particularly dangerous, when waves are usually much bigger.
“If you want to take a speed boat, you should think about the condition of your back, and if necessary, take precautionary measures like using a back brace to reduce the risk of injury,” he suggested.
The most important thing is to let the boat driver and tour operator know if you have a back problem. They can then advise you whether or not you should take the trip depending on the conditions.
However, visitors can always opt for the ferry service, which is a much smoother trip without slamming over the waves. It does take more time though.