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September 2nd, 2010
04:56 PM ET

Hurricane waves can break bones, rupture eardrums

The spotlight is on Hurricane Earl, but its predecessor Hurricane Danielle isn't entirely harmless. Hurricane Danielle moved past Bermuda on Saturday, but the storm's effect on the surrounding ocean has caused several injuries to beachgoers on the East Coast.

In Ocean City, Maryland, residual rip tides and heavy surf from Hurricane Danielle have caused several dislocations of shoulders and cervical injuries, said Dr. Roy Cragway, Jr. physician, Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Maryland. This is a common issue around hurricanes, he said.

A wave may knock a person down onto rocks or something else hard and if the person extends an arm to try to break the fall, that can dislocate a shoulder, he explained. Cragway has been seeing about two or three injuries that happened like this per week.

Another potential risk from forceful hurricane waters is rupturing your eardrum, he said. Small perforations will heal by themselves, but some people will require surgery, Cragway said. Anyone who experiences bleeding from the ear, and hears the sound of the ocean even away from the beach, should consult a doctor.

Injuries to the neck also can happen when people dive into shallow water, regardless of whether there's a hurricane. And even the most experienced swimmers may be harmed, or even drown, in rough waters during or after a hurricane.

As Hurricane Earl threatens the East Coast, beachgoers should pay attention to the lifeguard situation, he said. Don't go swimming if there is no lifeguard on duty, especially after the beach closes. If you have small children, make sure you are watching them. Don't go more than 20 or 30 yards offshore, if that, he said.

If lifeguards say the beach is closed, don't go swimming, he said.

"Don’t endanger your health and don’t endanger anyone else’s for the sake of a good time," he said.

Here are storm preparation tips from the CDC.


soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Jim

    So can other waves.

    September 2, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VegasRage

      Yup, you don't need a hurricane to get in trouble at the ocean, happens all the time.

      September 5, 2010 at 03:41 | Report abuse |
  2. Editor

    Do you really mean "cervical" injuries? I think you mean "clavicle" in the second paragraph. The cervix is internal, and I don't see how the waves could injure it.

    September 2, 2010 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OR nurse

      cervical injuries can take place in your neck, not just in the female pelvis...

      September 2, 2010 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
    • swan

      the cervical injuries happen in the part of the spinal cord called the Cervical spine. It starts at the base of the skull and ends at the shoulders. C1-C7 vertebrae. Basically the neck.

      September 2, 2010 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      Cervical typically means a neck injury. A woman's cervix wouldn't get injured by this type of accident. It would have to be a horrific wave that damages the internal organs of a female!

      September 2, 2010 at 23:29 | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      The Cervical portion of your spinal chord refers to the upper neck portion, not the female anatomy you are presumably referring to.

      September 3, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      The term cervical can also be used in reference to the neck region. As in a cervical collar (neck brace) that you can find on sale at any Walgreens.

      September 5, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck

    Cervix means necking down apparatus.. Hence, the neck, looking at a cervix in female anatomy, the cervix is where the uterus necks down or gets smaller, where contects from the uterus empties into the vaginal opening.

    September 3, 2010 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sarah

      Unfortunately, most people don't know this sort of thing. Dr. Gupta should have thought of that. I can guarantee you all of us thought of the female organ. I know I did!

      September 3, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
  4. Noble9

    The first time I ever saw a dislocated elbow was when I was lifeguarding at the beach. Never saw a ruptured eardrum. Broken necks and backs were the worst.

    September 3, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Swamprattler

    And cases of stupidity for going swimming in a damn hurricane. i.q. must be in the high 30's

    September 4, 2010 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. VegasRage

    Beware the undertow, the ocean is relentless.

    September 5, 2010 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.