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Stingray Injury (cont.)

Stingray Injury Causes

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.

  • A fisherman, for example, can be injured removing a stingray from a net or fishing line.
  • In rare cases, the stingray's powerful spine has penetrated a person's abdomen or chest causing severe injury.
  • Rays found in home aquariums can cause injuries.
  • You can prevent injury by shuffling your feet while walking or wading through water to startle and shoo them away. Wearing footwear such as sneakers or dive booties may not help because the spine can penetrate them.
  • Don't try to chase or ride a stingray.
  • If you have hooked one, cut the line and release it. A seemingly dead ray can whip its tail in defense and cause an injury.
  • Certain rays, such as skates and manta rays, do not have a stinger at the base of their tails and are harmless.
  • Some rays in marine parks are friendly because they have become used to humans, and you can touch them. These rays are more likely to give you a hickey from the suction action created by their mouths when trying to feed on your hands. Venom is only located in the tail spine.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/26/2014
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Stingray Envenomation »

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.

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