While surfing is a beloved sport for many Floridians, surfing injuries are common. The American Journal of Sports Medicine published research indicating that recreational surfers experience between two and three surfing injuries for every 1,000 hours of surfing. Competitive surfers sustain more surfing injuries, at a rate of roughly six injuries per 1,000 hours. Additionally, severe surfing injuries are more likely to occur when the waves are above the head than when the waves are waist-high or shorter.
Common Surfing Injuries
Lacerations & Contusions
Surfing accident statistics show that lacerations are one of the most common surfing injuries. Lacerations can occur from contact with the surfer’s board, another surfer’s board, or the surfer’s environment. Environmental causes of lacerations include nearby rocks, reefs, and the ocean floor. The risk of infection is increased if the laceration occurs near a sewage outlet or during contact with a live reef. Surfers should seek medical attention for this type of surfing injury.
Sprains & Strains
Sprains and strains are among the most common surfing injuries. Surfers often experience this type of surfing injury in the lower extremities. Arial maneuvers and aggressive turning place high stress on the joints, muscles, and tendons in the lower body. This often leads to surfing injury such as sprains in the knees and ankles.
Shoulder impingement occurs when the surfer’s rotator cuff tendons and muscles are compressed or worn. This surfing injury typically occurs while paddling. Over time, the paddling motion alters the natural alignment of the shoulders. This unnatural alignment and movement may lead to acute or chronic shoulder impingement. Surfers who suffer shoulder impingement often experience pain and inflammation in the shoulder.
Head & Neck Injuries
Head and neck trauma is among the most dangerous types of surfing injury, according to surfing accident statistics. Head trauma most commonly occurs from impact with the surfer’s board and environmental objects such as rocks and the ocean floor. Surfing injury to the head and neck can include concussion, cervical spine fractures, and fractures in the face, skull, jaw, and teeth. Surfers who sustain surfing injury to the head or neck should stop surfing and seek immediate medical attention.
How to Prevent Surfing Injuries
Here are some tips to prevent surfing injury from occurring:
- Always warm up before beginning. Ten minutes of warming up can increase flexibility, improve performance, and decrease the risk of sustaining a surfing injury.
- Add a plastic or rubber nose guard to the tip of the surfboard to reduce the risk of surfing injury when bodily impact occurs.
- Use a soft top surfboard to reduce the risk of surfing injury from impact with the board. This may be especially useful in reducing the severity of head and neck trauma.
- Use a longer leash to connect the board to the surfer. This can reduce contact and therefore reduce the risk of sustaining a surfing injury.
- When surfing in rocky areas or around coral reef, consider wearing booties to prevent surfing injury such as lacerations on the feet.
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