29 Sep Common surfing injuries and how to avoid them
Do you surf? Do you know what movement patterns surfing involves and what the most common injuries are in surfing? Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Margaret Plag, does.
If you surf, you already know that it is an amazing sport and have experienced its positive effects on physical and psychological wellbeing. Most surfers I speak to want to surf as much as possible and have longevity in the sport. As an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, I know that to attain this, it is important to understand the movement patterns your body goes through whilst surfing, and what the common injuries are in order to try to prevent them occurring.
If you are considering taking up surfing, this information can help you get conditioned for the sport.
Common injuries in surfing
There are two (2) main types of injuries: A chronic injury is a long-term overuse injury. An acute injury is one that occurs from a one-off unplanned event. Chronic injuries in surfing occur through the repetition of a movement usually with poor biomechanics (movement capability), poor recovery or poor initial fitness levels. From research, the most common chronic injuries reported were lower back and neck pain as a result of the repetitive nature of paddling with a hyperextended lumber vertebrae (lower back). The shoulder joint was the second most common reported chronic injury, again due to the repetitive nature of paddling. Knee injuries due to the twisting movements whilst surfing are a reported third most common.
Lacerations as a result of being struck by a surfboard, or hitting a rocky bottom, were the most common acute injuries.
Acute injuries are unplanned and hard to avoid at times, but can be severe. Chronic injuries, however, can be avoided by understanding the nature of the sport and the biomechanics of the body that predisposes the surfer to an injury.
Movement patterns in surfing
Not surprisingly the most common activities in surfing are paddling (51%) and waiting around for a wave (42%), with actual wave riding taking up only 4% to total surf time. The intensity and duration of paddling and wave riding can vary significantly making surfing ‘an intermittent activity characterized by a large variability’. Surfing, unlike many other sports, has a complexity of movements when wave riding, and is performed in an unpredictable environment. For this reason, specific surf training should be implemented into an individuals exercise program to help enhance performance when surfing and most importantly to prevent injuries.
In 2012 I collected 12-month retrospective data on Australian surfers aged between 18-65 years. Surfers were represented at all levels of surfing, from recreational through to elite. I found that most surfers stated that they do not warm up before or cool down after a surf, did partake in some other form of training on a weekly basis – but the training was not specific to surfing.
So, how do you prevent these injuries and attain longevity in surfing?
It is definitely a good idea to speak to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for a tailored program, however, from understanding surfing movement dynamics and the most common reported injuries, here are some basic preventative exercises and stretches to help you maintain a healthy body ready for surfing and hopefully contribute to preventing the chronic injuries listed above.
Exercise Right’s top exercises for surfing injury prevention
Pectoralis stretch standing:
Lower back exercises
Gluteal stretch in lying:
Split squat with dumbbells (dumbbells not necessary):
Margaret Plag has been an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for over 10 years and has worked in the Sport and Exercise industry for over 17 years. Margaret has a passion for muscular skeletal injuries, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and chronic disease. Margaret believes that exercise IS medicine.