Coconut palm-related injuries in the pacific islands

Authors


Jonathan Mulford, 21/75 Buckland Street, Chippendale, NSW 2008, Australia. Email: jonathanmulford@hotmail.com

Abstract

Introduction: Coconut palms are an integral part of life in the Solomon Islands, given the widespread dependence of subsistence agriculture. Injuries related to the coconut palm are thus inevitable. Hospital records from the Central Referral Hospital were reviewed to identify (i) how commonly the coconut palm is implicated in injuries referred to the surgery department; (ii) which patients are being injured; and (iii) the type of injuries sustained.

Methods: The present study reviews all patients referred to the Department of Surgery and Orthopaedics between January 1994 and December 1999 who had a coconut palm-related injury. This was possible due to the trauma epidemiology form, which records the patient details, cause of injury, fracture details and other injury information.

Results: A total of 3.4% of all injuries presenting to the surgical department was related to the coconut palm. Eighty-five patients fell from the coconut palm, 16 patients had a coconut fruit fall on them, three patients had a coconut palm fall on them and one patient kicked a coconut palm. The majority of patients who were injured by falling from a coconut palm were young (aged 6–25 years). Eleven of the 16 patients struck by falling fruit were under 25 years of age. The majority of injuries sustained were fractures. Patients falling from coconut palms sustained mainly upper limb fractures (60.1% of all fractures) or spinal fractures (16.3%). Patients injured by falling fruit sustained skull or upper limb fractures. All skull fractures occurred in patients under the age of 10 years.

Conclusion: This is the largest review of coconut palm-related injuries. It highlights some epidemiological facts that raise considerations for preventative health measures in the Solomon Islands. Parents and young children must be warned of the dangers of playing beneath coconut trees. Boy and girls should be warned of the dangers of collecting fruit. With an increasing amount of schooling becoming available the Solomon Islands is an ideal place to direct an education programme about the dangers of coconut palms as well as many other primary health issues. Because subsistence farming plays a crucial role in the life of most Solomon Islanders, injuries that result in loss of function are crippling both to the patient and the village. Any preventative measure to reduce the rates of injury will be important.

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