An unidentified 28 year old man suffered a shoulder dislocation while on a commercial rafting trip on the Hudson River Gorge on June 1. Due to recent rains, the river was running at close to 6 feet. The weather was partly sunny with temperature in the fifties. Everything was going fine on the Indian River. I was kayaking alongside 2 other kayakers and a safety boater (“kayak escort”), with a half dozen rafts.
When we got to the Hudson River, I stayed with the group until they stopped at “Jump Rock”. Raft customers routinely clamber onto this rock and jump off into the flatwater. At this water level, it is about an 8 foot jump into deep water. Thousands of raft customers routinely do this during a season without incident. At this point, I headed downstream to join fellow kayakers Bruce Lomnitzer and Jason Smith, two New York State D.E.C. Forest Rangers. I was having a great time, paddling down moderately challenging rapids on a beautiful day.
At the bottom of Giveny’s Rift Rapid, I looked back upstream to see a solo kayaker paddling down the rapid. He turned out to be the safety boater for the rafting company. He had been chasing us for miles. He reported that a rafting customer had suffered a shoulder dislocation at Jump Rock and needed our help. The customer had apparently jumped feet first and had entered the water with his hands over his head. The victim stated that his arm dislocated in mid-air. T
he guides did try to reset the shoulder but the victim kept screaming in pain. He had been given 800 mg ibuprofen. Jason, Bruce, and I are WFR certified, are ACA swiftwater rescue and whitewater kayak instructors, and are experienced in rescue. I have also been an EMT for 30 years, am a Wilderness First Aid Instructor, and have successfully reduced 2 shoulder dislocations on rivers. By the time the raft arrived, the shoulder had been out for about 90 minutes. The man was in significant pain. I obtained consent to try to reduce the dislocation and examined the shoulder. It was a classic anterior dislocation, with the added complication of muscle spasm, significant swelling, and compromised circulation to the hand. Working as a team, we were able to massage the shoulder, apply traction, and slowly externally rotate the arm.
After about 15 minutes the shoulder was back in place. Blood flow returned to the hand and the patient was much happier. We secured the arm with a sling and swathe, warmed him, and sent him on his way, with instructions to not use his arm until he got to the hospital. The rangers were able to establish radio contact with D.E.C. dispatch, who arranged for an ambulance to pick up the rafter at the Barton Mines plant. D.E.C. Ranger Art Perryman made sure that the ambulance was waiting there. Everyone worked well together to help this injured paddler. His outcome would have been much worse if we had not reduced the dislocation and improved the blood flow. I urge all paddlers to become trained in prevention and treatment of shoulder dislocations. Shit happens – be ready to deal with it.
Submitted by Rick Morse