A 'Richter' Scale for Shark Bites

This is an interesting move in the right direction. Apparently conceptualized for medical treatment applications, this 'SIT' grading system or 'Shark Induced Trauma Scale' could also serve as an aid for the media to more realistically communicate with the general public about the all-too-often grossly sensationalized human / animal interactions we hear and see broadcast year in and year out.

With the convincing majority of incidents resulting in minor or easily treatable and fully recoverable injuries, the public is conversely and overwhelmingly served up a much more grizzly and frightening version of the facts. It's not surprising. After all, in the news biz, 'If it bleeds, it leads'. It's time for a little evolution towards fair, balanced and more accurate reporting. Then again, maybe it's a supply and demand issue, but that's another topic.

This grading system concept has been widely adopted and easily understood by the public, with regard to other naturally occurring events like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes. Just like there's a big difference between a few trees blowing down and an entire city being wiped off the map, an 'ankle-biting' blacktip causing minor lacerations shouldn't get the same headline screen time as other statistically proven, rare fatal human / shark encounters.

From the UnderwaterTimes.com News Service:

Dr. Ashley Lentz of the University of Florida. Researchers have created the Shark Induced Trauma Scale, or SIT. photo credit Sarah Kiewel

“If it’s just an extremity and it’s an abrasion, it’s just a Level I injury,” Lentz said. “If a shark comes up and takes a big bite out of a thigh and takes out the femoral artery, then that’s a life-ending bite — pretty quickly — and you are talking about a Level V injury.”

The new shark bite severity scoring system creates a standardized way for medical personnel to assess patient risk and for researchers to evaluate trends, as well as offers a consistent method for media and officials to communicate the impact to the public.

Findings showed 41.7 percent of attacks were Level I, 16.7 percent were Level II, 18.8 percent were Level III, 14.6 percent were Level IV and 8.3 percent were Level V.

In the article, UF researchers cite a Level III injury example of a 35-year-old man who had been swimming approximately 30 yards offshore. The shark bit into the muscles of his calf and foot. He was hospitalized for a couple of months because of an infection and underwent three reconstructive surgeries.

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