For many, surfing is a way of life and if injury strikes the effects can be devastating. Despite the obvious dangers, surfing has become increasingly more popular over the years. As we all get out there and brave those big waves during the summer months we need to keep in mind the safety aspects to prevent any obvious injuries. Surfing is physically demanding, repetitious and often hazardous. Advances in surfboard technology enables more speed and sharper turns pushing people to their limit more than ever before. Lacerations to the head, lower leg and foot are the most common injuries, usually caused by contact with the surfer’s own or another surfer’s board or fins; with the ocean floor, or with beach litter. Soft tissue injuries such as bruises and acute sprains to the back, neck, shoulder, knee and ankle comprise the second largest group of injuries. Fractures of the skull, nose and ribs are common, while eyes and ears are also vulnerable.
Chronic low back pain is another common problem surfer’s face due the constant extension when paddling. To help avoid this take regular rests from paddling and sit up on your board for a while. Shoulder pain may also be a problem when paddling, if the shoulder is tight or has muscle imbalance or incoordination of muscles. A common problem is when the shoulder blade does not coordinate with the upper arm – there may be overactivity in the muscle between the neck and the shoulder (the upper trapezius) which may lead to impingement of the rotator cuff. It is important to retrain these patterns of movement so that the problem will go away and stay away rather than reoccurring every surf. A surfer’s flexibility is very important to reduce the chance of injuries and to improve performance.
Make sure you warm up before you go for surfing, as most injuries occur when people are cold and have not warmed up, or are fatigued at the end of a big session. Warming up properly including stretching before jumping in the water will make a difference in performance and injury prevention. If you feel tired take a break or stop for the day. That way you can get out there and have a great time the next day without those niggling aches or more severe injuries. If you have any aches and pains or want some warm up or stretching exercises before you get out there amongst those waves, get in touch with your physio to get the correct advice. Have fun….SURF’S UP!