Surfing can be an exhilarating experience and in recent years it has become an increasingly popular water sport. However, it can be hazardous especially if you are starting out or if you are not physically fit. Even seasoned surfers may push their skills to the limit by tackling bigger waves and making daring manoeuvres that can land them into difficulty. Many people are injured while surfing. Some common surfing injuries are:
Lacerations and/or contusions
Cuts and bruises to the head, legs and feet can result from coming into contact either with their own or another surfer’s board, the ocean floor, rock or debris. A contusion is another name for a bruise, which may result from a fall or impact. Scratches and lacerations may be superficial or deep, requiring debris to be removed from underlying layers of the skin. First aid treatment consists of ice and bandaging depending on the nature of the bruise or cut. Physiotherapy for more serious contusions (bruising) is very helpful in helping the body break down the inflammation thus promoting faster healing rates and less long term internal scarring.
Fractures to the head, ribs and shoulder may occur as the surfer comes into contact with a reef, rock or the ocean floor. In some cases, the nose or teeth may be broken. Depending on the site, size and nature of the fracture, it may either be managed conservatively by immobilisation in a cast or sling and physiotherapy treatment or surgical repair may be required which is also followed by physiotherapy treatment. Following a fracture, physiotherapy will help reduce pain and inflammation as well as restore flexibility and strength.
Ear and eye damage
The surfer’s ears and eyes are also subjected to injury from direct trauma or from the UV rays of the sun reflecting on the water. A “wipe-out” may also perforate the eardrum. Over time, surfers can develop bony growths within the outer ear, a condition known as Surfer’s Ear that can sometimes lead to deafness. You should consult with your health care professional for any eye and ear conditions you may acquire from surfing.
Overuse injuries take place as a result of paddling for prolonged periods face down on the board. The shoulder, neck and back are most affected. Physiotherapy treatment may include deep tissue massage and a rehabilitation programme of stretching and strengthening exercises for the correct muscles to compensate for the paddling posture. Stretching should be performed before every surfing session to prevent soft tissue structures from tightening too much.
Anyone wanting to engage in this sport should be a strong swimmer, be physically fit and have a good understanding of what surfing entails before getting into the water. Introductory surfing lessons can teach you the correct techniques and help prevent injury. A physiotherapy programme can help prepare the beginner for his new sport. If you have suffered injury, we will work on balance, flexibility, proprioception (sense of your body position and orientation) and strength. Building up endurance strength particularly in the legs and core muscles and shoulders will help. This, together with the use of protective gear, will help you surf safer.