ANU shark attack study suggests 'push hard between the hips and the bits' to save lives

Dr Nicholas Taylor. Picture: Supplied
Dr Nicholas Taylor. Picture: Supplied

A first-aid technique which involves applying pressure to the bit where the leg meets the groin could save surfers from fatal shark attacks, a study by the Australian National University has found.

Researchers found by making a fist and pushing down hard on the femoral artery, first responders could reduce blood flow and prevent shark attack victims from bleeding out.

The study's authors, Canberra Hospital emergency department doctors Nicholas Taylor and David Lamond, want to see the first-aid technique become common practice in the surf community.

Dr Taylor said surfers were at an elevated risk of shark attack and leg wounds were the most common injury.

He said first responders typically tied the surfboard leg rope above the wound to reduce the blood flow, however, were unable to sustain the required pressure for a long period of time.

Dr Taylor said by making a fist and using their own body weight to push hard between the hips and the bits, study participants reduced the artery blood flow of 34 healthy people.

"Statistically, the sharks usually come in just for one bite then they realise you're not a tasty seal and they go away," Dr Taylor said. "Unfortunately, on a surfer, that's usually on a fairly big chunk of leg."

Dr Taylor said most people make it to the beach and most people aren't by themselves.

"You can't leave your mate who's bleeding to death on the beach, so you have to use what you've got available to you," he said.

"You could run up to the car, make a phone call and come back, but it could be too late."

The researchers used an ultrasound machine to measure blood flow, comparing their technique with the leg rope method.

On average, blood flow was stopped by 89.7 per cent by making a fist and pushing hard on the midpoint, compared to 43.8 per cent by using a leg rope tourniquet.

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Dr Taylor said while surfing at the South Coast didn't have quite the same risk as surfing at Brunswick Heads, shark attacks were on the rise.

Last year was Australia's worst for shark attacks with eight deaths and 18 unprovoked attacks on surfers.

Dr Taylor said while the risk of a shark attack might be relatively low, the fear in the community was high. By making the femoral artery technique well known it was possible to alleviate some of that fear, he said.

"I want posters at beaches. I want to get it out in the surf community," Dr Taylor said.

"I want people to know that if someone gets bitten you can pull out the patient, push as hard as you can in this midpoint spot and it can stop almost all of the blood flow."

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This story Canberra doctors develop life-saving shark attack first aid first appeared on The Canberra Times.