Stingray Injury Facts
Stingrays do not actually attack. Injuries from these sharklike creatures are usually defensive actions. Once disturbed, their venomous stinger (spine) near the base of their tails lashes out and can cause punctures or lacerations (cuts). Their mouth parts do not cause injury, but a hickey can occur if they try to suck you.
Stingrays are aquatic, cartilaginous vertebrates who are members of the shark family. They have flat bodies and winglike fins. Stingrays are nonassertive and can be found lying in the sand in shallow water at the beach or swimming free in open waters. Most are saltwater creatures, but a few live in fresh water.
What Causes Stingray Injury?
Most stingray injuries typically occur when a person accidentally steps on a ray as it lies on the shallow, sandy bottom of a beach area. Rays often cover themselves with sand for camouflage while resting or hiding from predators, so they can be hard to see. When stepped upon or harassed, they swing or arch their tail in the direction of the intruder as a defensive maneuver to protect themselves. This drives their spine into the unwanted intruder. The ray’s tail can reach all the way to the front of its head for protection.
People who step on a stingray most frequently are injured on their feet and lower legs. Hands and arms can be injured if a person tries to touch or catch one.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/15/2016
David DuBois, MD, MS, FAAEM, FACEP
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Thomas Rebbecchi, MD, FAAEM
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Stingrays (ie, elasmobranchs) are bottom-dwelling cartilaginous fish that have a flattened body, one or more stout spines on the tail, gill slits on the lower surface of the head, teeth modified into 2 large crushing plates, and no dorsal fin.