Surfing is a sport that is appealing to more and more people and the rise in popularity means that there are more surfing injuries being treated by physiotherapists. It isn’t all that surprising more of us are donning a wetsuit given it is heaps of fun, keeps you fit, floods you with ‘feel good’ chemicals and of course, Australia has some of the best surf beaches in the world!
While surfing is considered safer than some other sports, there are still some dangers out there, especially for those who are less experienced in the water. The most common injuries are caused by contact with the surfboard, ‘wiping out’ and hitting the seafloor.
Some of the Common Surfing Injuries
As with all sports, surfing injuries can range from minor bumps through to the really serious and it is wise to be aware of how and why they can occur. Some of the most common injuries are outlined below.
It is very common to get a few bruises from your own surfboard, particularly to the face. Apart from surfboards, landing hard on the ocean floor will also give you some nice bruises. The bruises are bound to be bigger if you are surfing over a rocky reef, rather than a sandy seafloor.
Cuts & Scrapes
These would be the most common type of injury sustained from surfing. Pointy surfboard noses, sharp fins and spiky coral can cause many grazes and scrapes, or potentially deeper lacerations. Most often these injuries are found on the feet, face and knees and they frequently occur during the pop-up motion – the motion of lying on your board and jumping to your feet.
Surfing involves lots of twisting and turning, as well as jumping, so these sudden movements or an awkward landing can easily cause sprains and strains in the body. Knees, ankles and shoulders are the most susceptible. It is likely a sharp pain will be felt at first, which will become an ache and perhaps restrict movement.
Dislocations & Fractures
Fractures from surfing can be caused by hitting your own surfboard or another surfer’s board, or a rocky reef. They often occur to the head, especially the nose and teeth, but ribs are also prone to fractures. Spinal fractures may happen, but thankfully are uncommon. Dislocations can also occur from contact with a surfboard, reef or the ocean floor, most commonly in the shoulder.
In the past, suffering concussion from surfing was associated with a huge wipeout. These days, however, there is a lot more knowledge about concussion and it is recognised that it may arise as a cumulative effect from several small wipeouts. So, that is definitely something important to keep in mind while you are surfing.
Help Prevent Surfing Injuries
The factors that will help prevent injuring yourself while surfing are similar to those of any other sport.
- Be prepared by knowing your fitness level and ensuring you are at least moderately fit. Having better endurance and muscle power will help you catch more waves as well as helping to prevent injuries.
- Learn how to assess the conditions of the surf and don’t risk your safety if the conditions are beyond your capability. Be aware of the environment, choose sandy beaches as a beginner and don’t surf too close to other people in the water.
- Focusing your mind using meditation and breathwork can really help you in the surf, especially when having to hold your breath or you find yourself in a tricky situation.
- Familiarise yourself with surfing etiquette, which includes respecting other surfers’ right of way, limiting one surfer on a wave, and allowing everyone to catch their share of waves.
Treating Surfing Injuries with Sports Physiotherapy
Acute injuries should be managed by the PRICE method to reduce swelling and improve mobility – that is, protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy has physiotherapists who specialise in surfing injuries, and they are skilled in rehabilitating your body using methods that are specific to surfing.
Undertaking a thorough assessment of your injury and lifestyle, your physio will also check your strength and movement before creating an exercise program tailored to you. Exercises will focus on improving flexibility, balance and proprioception, as well as strengthening to both improve performance and reduce the risk of further injury.
Pilates or massage may also be incorporated into your rehabilitation to improve the chances of achieving the best results possible. Advice will also be provided to minimise overuse injuries that may result from surfing related movements.
If you are itching to get back on that board, give the experts at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy a call to discuss your surfing injury, or book an appointment online. Their goal is to get you back out in the waves as soon as possible!