An Australian researcher has developed a new first-aid technique that could save shark attack victims from a fatal loss of blood in the crucial moments after the attack.
The method requires a rescuer or bystander to place his or her fist on the femoral artery, between the hip of the wounded leg and the genitals, and apply pressure using their full body weight to stop blood flow to the leg wound. It is a practice commonly used in some hospital emergency rooms for treating severe leg injuries.
The technique was developed by Dr. Nicholas Taylor, associate dean of the Australian National University Medical School and an avid surfer, and described in a paper published Friday in the Journal of Emergency Medicine Australasia.
Taylor says research has shown that compressing the femoral artery is more effective than applying pressure to a leg wound or using a makeshift tourniquet.
“You don’t need to be necessarily anywhere near the wound to make it work, and in some ways, it is less of a squeamish problem than trying to put pressure on a bleeding limb,” he said. “The trouble with a shark bite, they don’t just cause a clean cut, they cause lots of damage and trauma. They often break bones and rip muscle to pieces, and so trying to push on something to stop it bleeding is almost impossible. But pushing on the groin where there is no blood is actually an easy thing to do.”
Taylor says surfers are at a higher risk of a shark attack, and leg wounds are the most common injury. He says he would like his method to be promoted on first-aid posters at beaches around the world.
“On the International Shark Attack File, most of the shark attacks happen in the USA, followed by Australia, then South Africa and then Europe, and there’s a few islands like Reunion, which tends to get a, you know, disproportionate number of shark attacks,” he said. “Australia was unlucky to lead the world in fatalities in the last couple of years. You know, anywhere where there’s sharks, people are at potential risk, and I think this technique, if it’s well-known, could potentially be a lifesaver.”
The Australian research asserts that shark attacks “are increasing in frequency in Australasia and worldwide.”
The year 2020 was the worst for fatal shark attacks since 2013. The U.S.-based International Shark Attack File recorded 10 deaths last year. Six were in Australian waters.