If you're bitten by a shark, this new technique could help save your life

Antoinette Radford
Swellnet Dispatch

Researchers say they have found a new technique that could save the lives of shark attack victims, and all it involves is applying pressure near the victim's groin.

According to the Australian National University (ANU) study, the most common cause of death in shark attack victims who were bitten below the torso but survived their initial attack was blood loss.

So, researchers from the ANU found that applying pressure to the femoral artery — running from the pelvis through the thighs — could stop victims from bleeding out and buy crucial time until paramedics arrived.

"In shark attacks, most people don't actually get bitten twice and they can make it back to the shore," lead researcher of the study Nicholas Taylor said.

"I thought, if you make it to the beach with a friend and they're bleeding from the leg, what would be the best thing you could do?"

Dr Taylor said often people only had a matter of minutes to stop bleeding after a trauma to their lower body.

"People, when they have a large artery torn, only have a few minutes before you can almost completely lose all your blood volume. And it's very hard to try and stop bleeding out of an artery by pushing on the wound itself," Dr Taylor said.

Dr Nicholas Taylor hopes his new method can be used at beaches across Australia

The new technique requires people who are attending to a shark attack victim to "push hard halfway between the hips and the bits" — in the groin area.

"Put your fist in that central midpoint area, halfway between the hips and the bits, and then push as much force as you can down through your straight arm through that point," Dr Taylor said.

"If you use a straight arm and your bodyweight from your back and your shoulders it's a much easier technique than trying to push down with your wrist or your forearm," he added.

Proposed signage that the lead researchers of the study wants to see on Australian beaches

And the good news is: anyone can do it.

The study, published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, found no difference to the effectiveness of this technique depending on strength or body size.

The study showed the first-aid technique stopped 100 per cent of blood flow in 75 per cent of participants.

Blood flow was stopped on average by 89.7 per cent by making a fist and pushing hard on the midpoint, compared to using a tourniquet, which only reduced blood flow by 43.8 per cent.

"Most people could completely stop all blood flow. This new method saves time and works better than using a leg rope or looking for something else to use as a tourniquet," Dr Taylor said.

In the study, comparisons were also done with and without wetsuits, which had no significant influence.

Dr Taylor said he was hopeful the new technique could be signposted across Australian beaches. 

Other first responders welcome potentially life-saving techniques

Australian Paramedics Association NSW president Chris Kastelan said while the technique would need to be approved by the relevant authorities, it could help stabilise a victim before paramedics arrive. 

"That would certainly provide the individual who has suffered that trauma a greater chance of survival," he said.

"It would also mean that as paramedics arrive, the patient may not be as critically unwell from blood loss once they start treatment on the patient." 

He said that anything that could potentially save lives should be considered. 

"Ultimately we are talking about a really significant event, major trauma with major blood loss. So any guidelines that would help a person on the beach to help save the life of another person would obviously be a good thing," he said.

A spokesperson from Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) said the organisation followed the Australian Resuscitation Council guidelines but welcomed any new updates the council might make as new techniques emerge.

"SLSA, its medical advisor and the medical advisory group always welcome new options and techniques of performing first aid to ultimately save lives," the spokesperson said.

"SLSA looks forward to receiving further information to understand and review the new technique in relation to shark bite injuries in more detail."

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

etarip's picture
etarip's picture
etarip Friday, 24 Sep 2021 at 7:18pm

Use your knee, watch the wound. When the blood stops pumping you’re in the right spot. Stay there.
Get someone to put a tourniquet on. Ratchet the hell out of it. Let the pressure off slowly. If the blood starts pumping again, put pressure back on it. Tighten the tourniquet again.

This technique is an aid to hemorrhage control. Not a replacement. If you don’t get a T on, if you get tired or have to move the casualty (eg tide coming up while waiting for paramedics) the bleeding will start again.

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell Friday, 24 Sep 2021 at 7:54pm

i guess if you're surfing alone this could be done on yourself too. Good thread swellnet.

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo Friday, 24 Sep 2021 at 8:14pm

I don't know groundswell... how I would go even applying this technique... when solo and shocked.

How important is it to at least have.... 'somebody around'. Letting within the least somebody know your expected movements and return time, so help can come looking sooner rather than later or at worst not at all.

nextswell's picture
nextswell's picture
nextswell Friday, 24 Sep 2021 at 8:28pm

Thank you for the article. Live and surf in close proximity to the most recent attack. Hard to quantify such a beautiful distraction and doing what we love with such a tradgic attack. The region allows solitary surfing and 9/10 of my surfs are to myself. It does play on your mind. Any education and awareness is helpful. Happy surfing.

etarip's picture
etarip's picture
etarip Friday, 24 Sep 2021 at 8:39pm

Those surf tourniquets are designed for one armed operation. Practice doing it yourself a few times when not under pressure and you increase your chance of it working when you’re really under the pump.

Kham's picture
Kham's picture
Kham Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 6:38am

This is a great article. Like CPR, it is better to have some education and actually try something than just do nothing because you didnt know what to do. I also like the comment about applying a tourniquet if you have a 2nd person. I hope I never have to use the hips n bits technique, but will remember it.

lozv's picture
lozv's picture
lozv Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 8:19am

Great technique! In an Emergency First Aid Course about 10years ago this exact technique (but also using a rolled up towel) was demo'd briefly by the very experienced Instructor, a big hefty dude who did say you really have to apply serious pressure on the rolled up towel with your forearm and full bodyweight...I hope we never have to do it. Better than doing nothing at all.

Time traveller's picture
Time traveller's picture
Time traveller Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 8:34am

One for the doc. I'm not sure if this has been covered? The femoral artery runs down the right leg. So, I'm assuming this technique is to be applied to the right leg only, regardless of which leg has been bitten or where ever the bite may be below the waist. Is that correct? Could you please clarify.

Derryn's picture
Derryn's picture
Derryn Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 at 9:11pm

Nah both legs have the femoral artery, apply to the affected side.

D-Rex's picture
D-Rex's picture
D-Rex Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:18am

'And the good news is: anyone can do it.' Wow! Shark problem solved! This makes us all feel so much safer - thanks heaps Doc.

Bungan33's picture
Bungan33's picture
Bungan33 Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 10:13am

Mate.....someone doing nothing but trying to help others out, maybe save a life and childish sarcasm is as good a response as you can muster. I have never been able to get my head around that keyboard warrior mindset. Might one day just be you or a friend or your kid lying bleeding on the beach and some grom will step out from the crowd saying "I read this thing on Swellnet once....."

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:24am

What if the arm is bitten and not the leg?

criso's picture
criso's picture
criso Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 1:42pm

Yeah which "bits" do ya measure from then

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 4:20pm

Then don't go getting creepy around the groin Indo!! :-P

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:28am

Hi TT,
No the femoral artery is bilateral, both on the left and right side. Therefore L) amputation, apply pressure to the left side. R) amputation apply pressure to the right side.

The aorta is the main arterial blood vessel that takes arterial (therefore oxygenated) blood away from the heart to the lower parts of the body. There are a stack of bifurcations (branches) which split off from the descending aorta to supply blood to the major organs eg. liver, kidneys etc.
The descending aorta then splits into the iliac arteries (left and right), then into the femoral arteries (left and right).

Hope this helps.

Also there is the complementary venous system (femoral veins etc.)which takes blood (deoxygenated) back to the heart, for the whole process to start again.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=iliac+and+femoral+artery&t=osx&iax=images&ia=i...

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:33am

Indo,
This article.

https://www.ems1.com/ems-products/bleeding-control/articles/how-to-manag...

Take home message.

"Place the tourniquet as close to the amputation site as possible to limit ischemia and nerve compression of the extremity. Release the tourniquet as soon as the hemorrhage is controlled."

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:37am

1. Call for help
2. Apply pressure or tourniquet
3. Pray (to your chosen deity) for the victim
4. Stay calm

Oldbob's picture
Oldbob's picture
Oldbob Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 9:42am

Probably a few of us who have had femeral vein heart procedures (right heart catheter) would be familiar with this technique.
I had one in July and woke up clamped to the bed with pressure on that spot to stop the leak. After about 4 hours it was getting uncomfortable so the nice little nurse said she could try doing it manually. She was able to apply a lot of pressure even though she was a small lady. The vein clotted up after 10-15 minutes. Only problem was the pressure on the bladder, needing another nurse to carefully position a piss bowl. Leave your pride at the door when you go to hospital.
I didn’t know the artery and vein were adjacent. I now have the advantage of having a scar to mark the spot.

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 4:03pm

Oldbob, nice comment - leave your pride at the door when you enter the hospital- we are all vulnerable and human after all!! There is nothing more liberating than ditching pride - pride is generally not a good thing. A sense of being pleased with something you’ve done and happy is much better!! Pride adds nothing but weight and pain - it tends to be something people cling to but is really illusion.

Hutchy 19's picture
Hutchy 19's picture
Hutchy 19 Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 11:00am

Great work Swellnet !!!

Mentioned this to a friend in NNSW yesterday and sent the link now . Suggest we tell everyone including our families who may be at the beach with us .

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 3:50pm

Good article!! Nice to have good guidance and expertise to put us all on the right track. Keep focussed on job and you might save someone’s life!! Pretty awesome thing to do, done it many times myself and seen it done countless times growing up as a surfer and surf lifesaver. I have my father to thank for that (he also saved many lives). No father is perfect, but he gave me many good things including connection to the ocean and nature and a sense of community and responsibility. There it is, a clear shot at saying something good about my dad, and he deserves it.

Time traveller's picture
Time traveller's picture
Time traveller Saturday, 25 Sep 2021 at 4:44pm

Thanks san Guine for clarifying. Helped heaps. Cheers.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 10:25am

Dr John Cohen far from happy with this article..

etarip's picture
etarip's picture
etarip Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 7:27pm

Yeah, the point is that the ‘technique’ is just an aid to haemorrage control. It buys you time. You need to get a tourniquet on.
Dr Jon quoted from another site:
“ Stopping the bleeding, obvs, is the first thing you gotta do and sticking your fist into someone’s hip will help, although if you want to be even more effective use your knee, more surface area, less fatiguing, says Jon, referencing combat medicine.

“And, it’s fine if it’s all you’ve got although the fact is, if the person is still alive, they’re going to be so adrenalised they’ll be fighting you off. Getting them to stay still is for that pressure is extra hard. That’s why you want a tourniquet, you can set it and then got on with all the other business, getting help and so on.”

(From BG)

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 9:44pm

Cheers etarip

Buying time is the key, but remain calm...

From my own experience (only),

1. Airway
2. Breathing
3. Circulation

If you have 1,2 and 3 then the patient/victim is alive, now

4. Immobilse the patient (you've already tourniqueted/staunched bleeding)
5. Decrease O2 demand by keeping them calm (and you as well), reassure, reassure, reassure...
6. Get the experts (ie paramedics )on the scene ASAP

Remember:
'time moves so slow, in high stress situations.'

etarip's picture
etarip's picture
etarip Monday, 27 Sep 2021 at 10:08pm

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021 at 2:34pm

On the topic:

Shark Eyes are now making a dive/surf hybrid wetsuit that looks and feels like a usual steamer but also has the printed eyes across the back and the lower leg, plus speargun loading pad on the chest, textured protection on the arse for when sitting on rockshelves, boats, skis etc., and a pocket in the leg that could hold a knife, wax comb, or even a tourniquet.

In fact, that was Shanan's original intention, that every suit came with a tourniquet that fits the pocket. It may happen with later versions of the suits.

I've got one of the suits, it's currently being tested by a mate who's a gun diver and surfer.

johnruciak's picture
johnruciak's picture
johnruciak Monday, 11 Oct 2021 at 8:21am

I might get a tat to mark the spot with instructions