Witnessed Injury to kayaker

Was paddling the lower Green River in south central North Carolina this weekend and on Friday I was following a group of three kayakers in my Wenonah Argosy canoe. The upstream dam was running just ONE turbine so it was runnable class I/II but thousands of barely submerged boulders made manuevering pretty tricky and VERY tight in a few drops. Only one mile into the run I noticed one of the kayakers was wearing a ballcap (just like me) and on the very next drop which was a very tight chute between boulders, he flipped upside down and smacked his head on a boulder which nearly knocked him out but definately caused a huge cut across his forehead that had him bleeding profusely. It was kinda scary to watch and I am pretty sure he was gonna need stitches to his forehead. Helmets are definately a good idea on any boulder strewn river, especially one with relatively swift current and lots of exposed and barely submerged boulders.

I’ve done the lower Green a coupla times
in a c-1, and you are correct in suggesting helmet wear for decked boats, and perhaps for rec kayaks. Such craft are low and whip one’s head under faster than it happens in open canoes. And in a whitewater kayak, one is held in place so that one’s body is more or less straight down. With rec kayaks, usually one could kind of tumble out sideways as the boat is capsizing.

One advantage of whitewater c-1s over kayaks is that when a c-1 flips over, one’s body goes out to the side to set up for the roll, and so the head is not nearly so far under.

One step further
This summer we helped a girl out of the Ocoee with a broken nose. She did the same thing you described but hit her face. Then I began to notice some people had face gaurds on their helmets. I thought that was a great idea for shallow rocky rivers

It’s a judgement call. I wore a
full face helmet for motorcycling, whenever the temperature permitted, but in many trips and after many rolls on the Ocoee and other rivers, I never got a facial injury. They are relatively uncommon. But for someone who plays a lot in shallow water, and steep creeks a lot, it’s arguably a sensible precaution.

I’m seeing
too many yakkers lately substituting a helmet and roll for proper technique, and suffering the consequences. Among my group lately there’s been one “traumatic brain injury”, 2 broken noses, a black eye, and a few bruises.People leaning back running drops, not powering out of holes, running out of their zone, thinking a roll and helmet will save them any issues, and basically proud of their banged up helmets and bruised bodies. I’m sticking to my single blade, loose set up, and self rescue ability, and avoiding releases like the plague.

Paddling the Chattooga
a few years back, I ran across a couple both wearing helmets with birdcage face masks. We eddied out for a break and I asked about the masks. Turns out they were local orthodontists (or whatever)and had treated many paddlers for tooth, and mouth damage over the years. They felt that anyone paddling a boney swiftwater river w/o face protection was asking for trouble. After they recounted some injuries they had seen I really started rethinking my protection. Getting your teeth bashed out or jaw broken can easily happen.


Then I’ve been asking for trouble, too.
Thirty five years, often upside down. And as a tripleader, I watched many others flip in rapids. The only injury I remember was a friend getting thumped hard, through his helmet.

Orthodontists are too busy collecting money to paddle properly. And I think there are also dangers from a “cage” or any other full face structure getting “hooked” and jerking the head hard on the spine. Same goes for hard molded bills and stylish hard tails.

As I’ve said before, I always wore helmets when motorcycling, and sometimes I wore a full face. But is was more for warmth and keeping bugs out of my teeth than for face protection. It’s a personal choice, and there is NOT enough data to back up either choice.

What are the odds
Danger of wearing a facemask helmet? I would like to hear of a case where someone was hurt WORSE by wearing a helmet versus NOT. OR how many times an impact on a helmet saved someone from concussion/injury or drowning due to loss of consciousness. I am quite sure the latter category would be FAR more prevelant and common. Once I was broadsided in an SUV as a passenger by a dump truck at 40 mph and was thrown into the lap of the driver with only minor injuries. The passenger seat I was sitting in was crushed and IF I had been wearing a seatbelt, I would almost certainly had either died or been paralyzed. BUT I know the odds are FAR stacked against this ever happening again or being a safe practice (not wearing a seatbelt) so I always do so to this day.

Let’s wear helmets while driving and texting.

Yati, you’re confusing the issue of
wearing a helmet with the issue of whether one is “stupid” not to wear a full face helmet. As for whether a full face or cage can cause injury, some motorcyclists claim that it can. I think that the possibility exists, because clearly a cage, bar, or panel could catch on things during a bad swim.

Remember, you’re talking to a WW community where some people refuse to wear carabiners clipped to their PFDs because they report that some such carabiners have caught on things. If they believe carabiners can do that, they have to concede (in the absence of evidence) that face cages, bars, and panels might also snag on things. Heck, PFDs can snag on things, too. It’s a judgement call. Some steep creekers want full face protection, and I think they’re right. But most of us don’t need it, based on a low rate of facial injury. The latter is fact.

OK I agree its a judgement call
OK g2g I never used the word “stupid” or even claimed boaters who didn’t where helmets were stupid. I totally agree its all a judgement call. Actually I only wanted to express WHAT I WITNESSED and that even the poor injured kayakers buddies commented about his lack of helmet only minutes before his injury. Case closed!

It sounds like he lacked the reflexes
that might have saved his forehead, and certainly an inexperienced kayaker is more at risk. Most helmets come down far enough to protect the forehead.

It is strange how a recreational community defines safety standards. I was just up in Chicago for a 50th HS reunion and was shocked to see that no motorcyclists were wearing helmets. On the other hand, decked boaters are routinely expected to wear helmets for whitewater trips in GA, and they do. If motorcyclists were truly thinking as individuals, I would expect some to choose to wear helmets. And if boaters were truly thinking as individuals, I would expect a small number to decide not to wear helmets, at least on very easy whitewater. Not necessarily the Lower Green, as you note, it is quite shallow.

the word "stupid"
is wholly injected into this thread by you. No one elae has used this word.

The real message to consider is that they were wearing face masks. They asked no one else to do this nor do I. Why take this so personally? This is just advise for what it is worth. No one is trying to require you or anyone else to do anything. If you don’t like the advise, then ignore it.


consider the source
"Orthodontists are too busy collecting money to paddle properly."

You’re right
Fact is the Orthodontists were excellent paddlers and extremely nice folks. They were pushing no agenda and volunteered their reasons only after my questioning. If one thinks about it, money grubbing Orthodontists would never advise anyone to wear face masks. That would decrease business. :))


g2 is obviously ANTI-DENTITE