Injuries Caused by Ship Propellers: A Comprehensive Overview

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Medico Legal

Reading Time:

Published on: 12 Aug, 2023

Ship propellers, sometimes colloquially referred to as “screws,” are powerful mechanisms designed to move vessels through water. Injuries caused by these propellers are often severe due to the combination of sharp blade edges, substantial force, and rapid rotation. Understanding the types of injuries associated with ship propellers is crucial, especially in maritime safety and forensic investigations.

1. Lacerations and Incisions:

  • Deep Cuts: Propeller blades are sharp and, when rotating at high speeds, can cause deep incisions into the flesh, often down to the bone.
  • Jagged Wounds: Unlike a clean cut from a knife, a propeller can cause irregular, jagged wounds due to the victim’s or propeller’s movement during the injury.

2. Amputations:

  • Partial or Complete: Given the force and speed behind a ship’s propeller, it can lead to partial or complete amputations of limbs upon contact.

3. Crush Injuries:

  • Bone Fractures: The force exerted by a moving propeller can lead to fractures of the bones. Depending on the situation, these can range from simple fractures to comminuted ones where the bone breaks into multiple fragments.
  • Tissue Compression: In situations where an individual is trapped against a propeller or the hull of a ship, extensive soft tissue damage can occur, even if the propeller isn’t in motion.

4. Degloving Injuries:

  • Propellers can cause degloving injuries, where the skin and associated soft tissue are torn away from the underlying structures, typically the hands, feet, or limbs.

5. Drowning:

  • Secondary to the traumatic injuries caused by the propeller, victims may drown, especially if they are incapacitated and unable to reach the surface for air.

6. Infection:

  • Injuries occurring in marine environments expose the victim to a host of bacteria and other microorganisms present in the water, leading to a heightened risk of infections if not treated promptly and appropriately.

7. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):

  • If an individual’s head comes into contact with a moving propeller or even the forceful water turbulence caused by it, they can sustain traumatic brain injuries ranging from concussions to severe contusions or skull fractures.

8. Decompression Sickness:

  • While not a direct injury from the propeller itself, rapid ascent to the surface following a propeller injury (especially from depth) can put individuals at risk for decompression sickness, as nitrogen bubbles can form in the bloodstream.

9. Psychological Trauma:

  • Survivors of propeller accidents often experience psychological trauma, including PTSD, due to the severity and traumatic nature of the incident.


Injuries caused by ship propellers are devastating and often life-threatening. Emphasizing safety measures, such as ensuring engines are off when individuals are near the water’s rear or using protective cages in specific applications, can mitigate the risk. Immediate medical attention following any propeller injury is paramount to enhance survival and recovery outcomes.


We invite your question: Comment below


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *