In part 1 of our surfing injuries review we looked at the most common injuries that surfers have to deal with and suffer from. In part 2, Rob Hanley, our lead physiotherapist in our Limerick Clinic (and lover of surfing), looks at the best ways to avoid these injuries.
Remember while surfing is a healthy lifestyle and great way to keep fit, it is important to take care while in the water.
The ocean is unpredictable and needs respect. 150 people drown in Ireland each year so take time to assess the surf conditions before getting in. Know your limits stick to them.Look at where the experienced surfers enter and exit the water when surfing rocky or heavy breaks- this can be vital in keeping you out of trouble.For beginner surfers, ensure that there is a surf instructor/ lifeguard in the area and obey local hazard and warning signs. For information on life-guarded beaches, rip currents and general beach and water safety visit the National Water Safety Councils website
Remember the most common injuries are caused by your own board, particularly the nose and fins. A nose guard will protect the nose and consider filing down the fins a little to take their sharp edge off. Consider wearing booties (lighter ones in Spring / Summer), with a good tread pattern to prevent slipping on rocks and durable material to prevent cuts from surfboard fins.Always surf with a leash- your board is your safety float and it can be a long and dangerous swim into the shore without it, let alone the injury it can cause to someone if they get hit by it. Consider using a neoprene surfing hood and / or earplugs for surfing to reduce exposure to Surfer’s Ear. Prolonged overexposure to sunlight will cause sunburn and can cause skin cancer. Ensure you use a good, water resistant sunblock, even on clouded days.
In the Water
Spend time warming up and stretching at the beginning of a surf to prevent soft tissue injuries. Keep moving between sets, so muscles do not cool down. Respect the line up and pay attention to those about you in the water. For more information on surfing etiquette click hereHold on to your surfboard when paddling through waves. Remember most injuries are caused by your board. If you have a firm hold of it you will be much less likely to injure yourself or those around you. When falling off a wave try to jump clear of your board, roll into a ball and cover your head with your hands.
Back on Land
Participate in surf-specific conditioning and stretching so the entire body is strong and flexible; not just surfing muscles. Failing to do so will hinder your performance and can lead to muscular imbalances and overuse injurieseventually developing overtime. Hip flexibility, core and shoulder stability are particularly important. Contact your Chartered Physiotherapist for expert advice. Eat well, especially if doing multiple sessions in one day and maintain good hydration levels. Concentration and muscular abilities decline with low energy and hydration.Consider doing a first aid course. You never know when you, or those around you, could benefit from the training. For information on courses visit the National Water Safety Councils website: Treat all injuries immediately, no matter how ‘trivial’ they may seem. If not treated promptly (and correctly), some can later become reoccurring, the last thing you want is to miss out on the swell of the decade because you never got that trick knee fixed. If in doubt, contact your Chartered Physiotherapist or healthcare professional.
For more information on the incidence of injuries in surfing read this excellent paper by R. Frisby. For everything from health advice for surfing abroad to surfing with a pacemaker visit Surfline’s website