Research Article

Falls from trees and tree associated injuries in rural Melanesians.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 289 doi: (Published 22 December 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;289:1717
  1. P Barss,
  2. P Dakulala,
  3. M Doolan


    Falls from trees and other tree related injuries are the most common cause of trauma in some parts of rural Melanesia. A four year review of all admissions for trauma to the Provincial Hospital at Alotau, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, showed that 27% were due to falls from trees, and a further 10% were due to related injuries, such as being struck by a falling branch or a coconut. A questionnaire distributed to rural health centres showed that during the study period at least 28 villagers died from falls from trees before reaching hospital. Head and chest trauma were common causes of death. Many injured patients were boys. Forearm fractures were the most common injuries, but more serious injuries were also frequently encountered. Trees responsible for most deaths and injuries included the coconut palm, betel palm, mango, and breadfruit. There are many strategies for preventing such injuries; perhaps the most important is to stop small boys climbing tall trees. Such falls are a serious occupational hazard for many subsistence farmers.