Considering how unstable a deck can be, a broken bone is a real risk for sailors. Fracturing or breaking any bone requires medical attention. You will need to bring the injured person to dock and then arrange medical care right away. If the broken bone is the result of major trauma or injury, call for help on VHF 16 (MAYDAY). Also place a MAYDAY call if:

  • The person is unresponsive, isn't breathing or isn't moving. Begin CPR if there's no respiration or heartbeat.
  • There is heavy bleeding.
  • Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
  • The limb or joint appears deformed.
  • The bone has pierced the skin.
  • The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the hip, pelvis or upper leg (for example, the leg and foot turn outward abnormally).


Don't move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury. Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Put on a pair of hypoallergenic disposable gloves.
  3. Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
  4. Immobilize the injured area. Don't try to realign the bone or push a bone that's sticking out back in. If you've been trained in how to splint and professional help isn't readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
  5. Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain until emergency personnel arrive. Don't apply ice directly to the skin — wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
  6. Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.


For a lower arm or wrist fracture:

  • carefully place a folded magazine, or heavy piece of clothing under the arm
  • Tie it in place with pieces of cloth
  • A lower leg or ankle fracture can be splinted similarly, with a bulky garment or blanket wrapped and secured around the limb.

A person with a hip or pelvis fracture should not be moved. If the person must be moved, the legs should be strapped together (with a towel or blanket in between them) and the person gently placed on a board, as for a back injury.


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