Common Injuries in Surfing and How to Avoid Them

Surfing is a popular water-sport that has been growing rapidly in popularity, yet little is known about surfing injuries. Compared with other sports, surfing is relatively safe. However, contact with the surfboard, rocks, coral, or sand causes most injuries. Environmental factors such as sun exposure and marine animal bites and stings are other causes of injury.

Surfing injuries can be minimised by being aware of its possible causes, familiarising surfing etiquette, and most importantly, conditioning your body and mind before riding the waves.

Common Surfing Injuries

Cuts, scrapes, and lacerations. These are the number one injury in surfing. These are caused by sharp fins, pointy surfboard noses, and sharp coral reef edges. In surfers, open wounds are usually found at the heel, ankle, knee, and face.

Contusions. Contusions with own surfboard come in a close second most common surfing injuries after cuts, scrapes, and lacerations. The face is the major area for surf-related contusions. Other than surfboards, the hard ocean floor also causes this type of injury.

Sprains and strains. Sprains and strains occur as a result of twists and turns upon the body. Any sudden movements can potentially cause damage if your body is poorly conditioned. You may feel a sharp pain at first then eventually become an ache and can be extremely restrictive in some cases.

Fractures. Fractures also happen quite often in surfing. The head is the most common site, mostly involving the nose and teeth, and many ribs get broken. Usually this is due to contact with the surfboard.
In a prospective study, the risk of surfing injuries was more than doubled when surfing in large waves or over a hard seafloor. There are 2.4 times greater risk of injury when surfing larger waves and 2.6 times greater risk of injury when surfing over hard surfaces such as rocks and reefs.

How to Prevent Surfing Injuries

To minimise surfing injuries, you should:

  • Prepare yourself physically and mentally
  • Use proper gear
  • Be aware of your environment
  • Know the sport
  • Know the surfing etiquette (Respect other surfer’s right of way, allow everyone to catch their share of waves, one surfer on a wave)

    How Physiotherapy Helps

    Like in any other sports, acute injuries should be managed with RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). It is especially important to restore a full range of motion for injuries at the back, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints.
    A physiotherapist will help you in rehabilitating your body using methods specific to surfing and your individual needs. He/she will assess your injury and provide you with an exercise program to get you back to surfing. Your physiotherapist will work to improve your balance, flexibility, proprioception, and strength to optimise your performance and prevent further injury.

    If you’re new to surfing, a physiotherapy programme can help you with your new sport to ensure you are physically and mentally fit before getting into the water.
    Looking forward to riding the waves? Don’t let injury spoil your enjoyment. Get in touch with any of our Perth Physiotherapists at Happy Physio. Call us at 9272 7359 today!