Surfing is a sport with many inherent dangers. Drowning is a major concern in heavy surf. The violent tossing and bouncing in the surf can lead to traumatic injuries to the body. Most injuries in surfing are traumatic in nature. A surfer may also get lacerations (the head, legs, and feet), contusions, knee injuries, dislocations (shoulders most common), and skull and facial fractures.
Most Common Surfing Injuries
- Lacerations: Contact with the surfer’s own board, another surfer’s board, the ocean floor, rocks, and coral can cause cuts or tears in the skin, also referred to as lacerations. Blood loss, especially while still in the water, is a concern with lacerations. A bigger concern is infection.
- Bruises and Contusions: Contact with all of the same hard surfaces can lead to bruises and contusions, as well. A contusion is breaking of the blood vessels without the breaking of the skin. This causes blood to leak into the space under the skin causing swelling, pain and discomfort. It may be tender and discoloured. The harder the impact the more tissue may become involved. Deeper contusions may cause damage to muscle tissue and, in severe cases, could lead to compartment syndrome.
- Knee Sprain: Any of the ligaments in the knee are subject to sprain in the surfer. The most common sprains include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL.) The ACL is often torn when the foot and lower leg are planted but the upper leg rotates. The MCL is commonly sprained by contact or violent movement of the board. The severity of the sprain is determined by the amount of tearing present in the ligament, with the worst being a complete rupture.
- Subluxations/Dislocations: When being thrown around in the water, like clothes in the spin cycle, the body is subjected to a lot of forces. The shoulder and other joints are often forcefully moved through and beyond their normal range of motion. This can cause a partial, subluxation, or complete dislocation. When the bones of the joint are pulled out of their normal position, and do not return, they are dislocated.
- Skull and Facial Fractures: Forceful impact with the board or other hard object can cause fractures to the skull. The fractures may occur anywhere, including the face. The immediate danger with this type of injury is involvement with brain tissue. Bleeding into the cranial cavity and damage to the eyes, ears, and spinal cord are also concerns.
Injury Prevention Strategies
- Knowing the limits of your ability and avoiding surf that is too big or rough will help prevent a lot of injuries.
- Learning and practicing swimming skills in rough surf will also keep the surfer safe, as well as providing a base of overall conditioning.
- A solid weight training program with strengthening exercises for all of the muscles will help protect the bones and joints from the impacts and violent tossing involved when wiping out.
- Proper equipment and clothing while surfing will also protect the body from many of the hidden dangers on the seas.
- A solid stretching program to increase overall flexibility will prepare the body for the many awkward positions it may end up in while rolling in the surf. It will also help increase overall conditioning for the surfer.
3 Surfing Stretches
- Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
- Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
- Kneeling Heel-down Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.