There’s something phenomenal about surfing. Harnessing the force of the ocean while simultaneously surrendering to the power of a wave is described by some as one of the most enjoyable sporting activities on earth.
Australia is considered by many as the world’s wave-riding capital or a legendary surf Mecca. Surfing is so deeply embedded in Australian culture that winning world titles has become a norm.
Compared to contact sports and many other sport activities, surfing has a low overall risk of injury, and so is considered a safe sport. But like any other sport or physical activity, surfing can still lead to injury. The incidence of surfing injuries in Australia ranges from 2.2 to 3.5 injuries per 1,000 hours of surfing for recreational surfers and around 6.6 per 1,000 hours of competitive surfing.
Common Surfing Injuries:
Surfing requires a lot of paddling, and the extended or arched position makes the spine vulnerable to overuse injury.
Twisting primarily in one direction while paddling can cause imbalance and stiffness on the muscles surrounding your spine
When there are difficulties in hip and ankle movements, your knees absorb the impact. In surfing, there is a constant rotation and imbalance of the hips and ankles as your body is subjected to the power of the waves. The force needed to make turns causes stress on the inside of your knees. This can result in damage to the ligaments, cartilage, tissues and tendons over time.
The muscles in the back of the neck are in constant contraction while you are in a lying-down-and looking-forward paddling position. Prolonged, this position can strain the tendons, ligaments, bones and even nerves of the neck.
The shoulders are very vulnerable to overuse injuries. Continuous paddling strengthens the muscles that apply upward force, but leaves the rotator cuff muscles that apply downward force relatively weak. This imbalance can sometimes cause the ball of the arm bone to slide upwards in the shoulder joint. Repeated paddling can also cause irritation and damage to the rotator cuff muscles and the roof of the shoulder. This can lead to shoulder impingement or rotator cuff syndrome.
Bone Fractures, Joint Dislocations, Head injuries, Wounds, Scrapes, Bruises and Cuts
Sometimes accidents happen while surfing. You can be hit by your own surfboard, you may collide with other surfers, or you can hit rocks. The impact of collision with anything while at full speed may result in some, if not all, of the above injuries.
Preventing Surfing Injuries
- Warming up before surfing will increase flexibility and minimise the risk of injury
- Adding a plastic or rubber nose guard to the tip of your surfboard will minimise injuries to yourself and others
- Using a soft-top surfboard will reduce your risk of surfing injuries
- Using a longer leash that connects you to your board will reduce contact
- Observing proper surfing etiquette will keep you and others safer
- Having proper training from accredited surf schools will equip you with appropriate skills, techniques and safety
- Knowing your limitations and staying within your fitness level will reduce the risk of overuse injuries
- Learning how to paddle properly and efficiently will make you less prone to surf injuries
- Drinking enough water and getting good nutrition will keep you hydrated and strong
- Awareness of your environment will help you avoid accidents
- Strengthening you core and neck muscles will help absorb the impact of
- If you have a previous injury, consult a Physiotherapist to make sure that you are fit enough to surf.
Treatments for Common Surfing Injuries
Rest – You need to stop your activities immediately after injury occurs – active movements may increase bleeding and swelling.
Ice – Application of ice on injured area can reduce pain, inflammation and muscle spasm.
Compression – A firm bandage will reduce bleeding and minimise swelling.
Elevation – Elevating the injured area will reduce blood flow to the injured area and thus help to reduce inflammation.
Surfing injuries may keep you away from the water for months, even years, if your injury is not treated correctly. Physiotherapy may be able to help you get back on your surf board faster with massage techniques, guided exercises and stretches. Physiotherapy treatments also include scientifically backed Dry Needling and active release technique (ART).
At Southport Central Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic we apply the most current clinical knowledge for optimal patient outcomes. Our highly experienced and dedicated physiotherapists are well known for supporting and improving the performance of athletes.
Our patient-centric care approach ensures you get the compassionate, respectful and responsive care you need.
If you are suffering from a surfing injury or need advice book an appointment with our Physiotherapist and Accredited Exercise Physiologist Kelvin Choi.