Surfing may look easy to the casual observer, but if you’ve ever tried to catch a wave, you know that it takes a lot of skill and hard work. While it’s an exhilarating activity, it’s not without its risks. One wrong move and you could end up with a gnarly sports injury that requires immediate medical care. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most common injuries for surfers and what you can do to prevent them.
- Head Injuries – While head and facial injuries aren’t the most common type of damage surfers sustain, they do represent 26% of all surfing injuries. They’re also among the most dangerous. If you’ve been rendered unconscious, it’s likely that you might have sustained a concussion. Watch out for slurred speech, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, double vision, and headache. Delayed brain bleeding is possible, so if you’ve been knocked out (especially for longer than five minutes), you should seek medical treatment right away. Prevention does largely depend on your choice of break, so you should avoid surfing in shallow reef areas. Know your own limitations. You may also want to work on strengthening your neck muscles, as many feel that stronger neck muscles will help absorb those concussive forces. While hard-shelled helmets can help reduce the risk of head lacerations, experts aren’t certain whether they may help prevent concussions.
- Lacerations – No matter how experienced you are, your skin is always going to be prone to cuts. From coral reefs to sharp surfboard edges, the risk of laceration does come with the territory. But that doesn’t mean these injuries shouldn’t be taken seriously. Many times, you’ll have to cut your time in the ocean short and spend your afternoon getting stitches instead. Otherwise, you’ll increase your risk of serious infection like staph or Hepatitis A. If you sustain a cut on any part of your body, you’ll need to seek out wound treatment ASAP. Accidents happen, but there are a few things you can do to prevent lacerations. If you’re a novice surfer, consider using a board with softer fins. Very few surfers will notice a difference and you’ll reduce your risk of injury significantly. Some surfers also wear booties to protect their feet from coral reefs. The best option, though, is to research the area thoroughly and ask others with more experience about the spots you should watch out for.
- Shoulder Strain – Your shoulders are especially prone to injury stemming from overuse. If your muscles are underdeveloped, you push beyond your limits, or you’ve been surfing for many years, this can easily result in tendinitis or rotator cuff impingement. In simpler terms, you’ll probably be in a lot of pain just going about your daily activities. This is very similar to the type of sports injury sustained by many swimmers. One of the best things you can do to prevent shoulder strain is stretch. Most surfers don’t like to do it, but it’s a simple precaution you can take to reduce your risk of injury and even improve your performance overall. Surfing puts your body through a lot. Taking 10 minutes or so to warm up your muscles will help immensely and will allow you to get a better feel for the environmental conditions, too.
Despite all your best efforts, you may end up sustaining a serious sports injury during your time in the water. If you do, make sure to visit the closest urgent care clinic (ours is right on the beach!) to get immediate treatment.