Surfing Injuries (short-board / long-board), Stand-Up Paddleboarding, and Body-Boarding
Ben, Harumi, Megan, and Caris are all keen surfers and are aware of the injuries commonly incurred whilst surfing. Ben Liston has surfed for over 30 years and has treated a huge number of surfers over his career including WCT (World Championship Tour) athletes. At Dunsborough Physiotherapy Centre we regularly treat surfers of all abilities suffering injuries incurred locally in the powerful surf of the southwest of W.A. The team at Dunsborough Physiotherapy Centre are able to accurately assess your surfing-related injury and supply effective treatment to speed your recovery. Whether it is post-injury or post-surgical rehabilitation required our team of physiotherapists have great experience in the assessment and treatment of surfing injuries and can help.
Common surfing injuries: The most common surfing injuries requiring treatment are lacerations, sprains, dislocations and fractures. The most common surfing injury is a laceration or cut, accounting for about half of all surfing injuries. Half of all lacerations are caused by direct contact with the sea floor. Joint sprains account for 1/4 of all surfing injuries, most commonly to the back, shoulder, knee, and ankle. Dislocations and fractures account for the remainder of injuries with the nose, teeth, and ribs the most common fracture sites. The legs (37%) and head (35%) are most common areas of injury. The torso (16%) and arms (12%) account for the rest of injuries. Acute injuries account for almost 75% of surfing injuries. Aside from lacerations, acute knee injuries are common: two-thirds of knee injuries are sprains, cartilage tears, and dislocations, mostly caused by excessive body torque when performing turns on the wave face, when landing from aerial manoeuvres, or due to a fall. Surfers are also prone to chronic overuse injuries. The most common chronic overuse injuries involve the shoulder, back, and neck due to repeated paddling. Chronic ligament sprains of the knee occur commonly due to frequent turns and twists.
At Dunsborough Physiotherapy Centre we most commonly see knee meniscal injuries, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) ruptures, MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprains, ankle inversion sprains, hamstring and groin (adductor) strains, low back (disc injury / facet joint irritation), neck pain (facet joint irritation, disc injury and / or nerve root irritation), and shoulder injuries (dislocation / impingement syndrome involving the rotator cuff tendons, and sub-acromial bursa).
Common causes of surfing injuries: The most common cause (almost 50%) of acute injury in surfers is hitting a surfboard, either your own or someone else's. Wipeouts in deeper water cause about one-third of all injuries. Falling and hitting the seafloor is responsible for almost 20% of surfing injuries. Reef seabeds double the risk of injury compared to sandy seabeds.
Who gets injured? Experienced surfers tend to have more severe injuries than novices, most likely because they surf larger waves in more challenging conditions. Inexperienced surfers tend to be injured more frequently, although their injuries tend to be less serious. Competitive surfers have slightly higher injury rates than recreational surfers: 1 injury for every 150 hours of surfing. However, competitive surfers usually ride higher waves, perform numerous turns and twists, and often execute aerial manoeuvres. Variables that increase the risk for a serious injury are: age over 30 years old, advanced or expert surfing ability, and wave size over head-high. There is no difference in the injury rates between men and women.
Buy protective equipment. Use rubber guards for the nose and fins of your board to prevent lacerations. Wetsuits can also prevent lacerations from fins. Only 5% of surfers use rubber guards.
Wear a helmet to prevent head injuries, especially when surfing near shallow reefs or in crowded conditions. Only 5% of surfers regularly wear helmets. Although concussions account for only 6% of surfing injuries, they are potentially the most serious because they can result in drowning. One out of every 100 surfers has reported a near-drowning experience. Never surf alone.
A surfboard leash ensures access to a flotation device in case of disabling injury and lowers risk of injuries to others from loose boards. However, leash recoil increases the odds of the board striking you in the face or head.
Good physical fitness, including strengthening and stretching the neck, shoulders, and back, can help to prevent chronic injuries. Improved proprioception may also help to lessen knee and ankle injury rates in surfers. Proper landing technique can help to lessen angulation at the knee and reduce the risk of ligament / meniscal injury. Correct paddling technique can lessen potential impingement and rotator cuff / sub-acromial bursal problems. Correct neck and head position during paddling and duck-diving can lessen stress on the neck.
Ask the locals about water conditions before surfing in an unfamiliar area.
Be realistic about your abilities; don't be peer-pressured to surf waves beyond your skill level.
Stay sober. One in 100 surfers has admitted surfing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Spread out. It is typical to have 15 surfers in the water at any one time. Injury rates have been shown to increase with more surfers in the water.
At Dunsborough Physiotherapy Centre we can provide you with an effective rehab program including assessment and modification of your biomechanics, proprioception (balance) exercises, strengthening exercises for core stabilising muscle groups, strengthening exercises for rotator cuff musculature, scapular stabiliser musculature, deep neck flexors, hamstrings, adductors and gluteals and joint range of movement / flexibility exercises.