As with any water sport, drowning is always a concern. Along with this possibility, the faster moving high- wind windsurfing can result in other water related injuries such as aspiration of water and eardrum ruptures. Traumatic injuries make up the majority of windsurfing injuries, although chronic injuries may still occur. Windsurfing, when proper safety equipment is used, is relatively safe, but injuries do occur. Some common injuries associated with windsurfing are ankle sprains, shoulder dislocation, tarsometatarsal fracture-dislocations, and lower back pain.
Most Common Windsurfing Injuries
- Ankle Sprains: Since the foot is fixed in straps on the board, falls from the board can result in ankle sprains due to violent twisting of the foot. When the ankle is rotated beyond its normal range of motion the ligaments become stretched and torn. This leads to inflammation and swelling in the joint, pain and tenderness over the ligament, and pain with weight bearing. Sprains may occur on either side of the ankle and in a high or low position depending on the rotational direction and movement of the foot.
- Shoulder dislocation: Holding the rigging while falling may put the shoulder in a weak position and may result in a dislocation. The humerus drops out of its normal position in the shoulder joint, stretching and tearing the ligaments and tendons. If the shoulder remains out of position it can cause long term damage. Subsequent dislocations occur easier due to the stretched ligaments. Most dislocations can be reduced non-surgically, although they do still require osteopathic attention.
- Tarsometatarsal fracture-dislocations. This fracture, or dislocation, occurs when the foot gets caught in the strap on the board and the bones in the mid-foot become dislocated, with possible associated fracture of the metatarsals. Due to the weight bearing set-up of the foot this injury can be very debilitating, reducing the ability of the foot to distribute the weight effectively. Pain, tenderness, swelling, deformity, and inability to bear weight may all accompany this injury.
- Lower Back Pain: The prolonged lumbar lordosis position assumed by windsurfers as they grip the rigging, especially in low-wind surfing and cruising can lead to chronic lower back pain. The muscles become tight and put stress on the vertebrae they are attached to, causing pain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
- Use of personal flotation devices and practice swimming in different surf conditions will help prevent drowning and near-drowning injuries.
- Frequent breaks and changing positions during long periods of windsurfing will help prevent the muscles from becoming tight and causing pain.
- A good overall conditioning program to strengthen the muscles to protect the joints will also help prevent many of the traumatic injuries.
- Proper sizing of the equipment for the activity and making sure the foot can release easily from the strap will also prevent some of the lower extremity injuries.
- A solid overall stretching routine, with extra work for the lower back and hamstrings, will also help the windsurfer avoid many of the injuries incurred during their activity.
3 Windsurfing Stretches
- Reaching-up Shoulder Stretch: Place one hand behind your back and then reach up between your shoulder blades.
- Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
- 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.