Three cardiac doctors have called for regulations imposing the use of propeller guards to prevent potentially lethal injuries taking place in the sea.

Malta still does not have such regulations despite the growing popularity of water sports, David Sladden, Aaron Casha and Alexander Manché, from Mater Dei Hospital’s Department of Cardiac Services, write in a medical report about a particularly serious accident that took place last year.

They also point out that there is no public registry on recreational boating injuries.

“In Malta there are 45 designated swimming zones where the use of propeller motors is not permitted. There is no regulation on the imposition of propeller safety guards and neither is there a public registry of recreational boating injuries….

“These injuries are not medically pre­ventable but should still be safeguarded by public health legislation and boat design,” according to their article published in the Malta Medical Journal.

The article is a case study of a chest wall reconstruction following a speedboat propeller injury. A 44-year holidaymaker suffered severe chest injuries while diving in Comino last August when he was dragged towards the propeller of his boat by the current.

One of his friends on the boat, who happened to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, provided first aid and covered his gaping wound with a towel. He was then taken to hospital where he was immediately operated on.

The three authors describe in detail how the surgery, which involved extensive reconstruction, was carried out.

The man went on to make a full recovery and returned to his home country.

“There have been cases of propeller injuries in Malta but this is unique in being a severe injury to the chest, in which the patient made a full recovery,” the authors note.

But, apart from sharing their medical expertise, they underline the importance of having regulations in place on the use of propeller guards or jet drive systems (which propel by using water jets).

They also stress on the importance of having a better understanding of the incidence of such cases.

“The size of the problem is unknown in Malta and a public registry needs to be made available in an effort to reduce these accidents,” they write.

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