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Surfing| Injuries

Posted Jul 26 2008 10:12am

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Surfinghas experienced a 'boom' in participantsandmedia attention over the last decade at both the recreationalandthe competitive level. However, despite its increasing global audience, little is known about physiologicalandother factors related tosurfingperformance. Time-motion analyses have demonstrated thatsurfingis an intermittent sport, with arm paddlingandremaining stationary representing approximately 50%and40% of the total time, respectively. Wave riding only accounts for 4-5% of the total time whensurfing. It has been suggested that these percentages are influenced mainly by environmental factors.

Competitive surfers display specific size attributes. Such surfers tend to have a husky, muscular body buildandlower heightandbody mass compared with other matched-level aquatic athletes. Surfers possess a high level of aerobic fitness. Upper-body ergometry reveals that peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) values obtained in surfers are consistently higher than values reported for untrained subjectsandcomparable with those reported for other upper-body endurance-based athletes. Heart rate (HR) measurements duringsurfingpractice have shown an average intensity between 75%and85% of the mean HR values measured during a laboratory incremental arm paddling VO2peak test. Moreover, HR values, together with time-motion analysis, suggest that bouts of high-intensity exercise demanding both aerobicandanaerobic metabolism are intercalated with periods of moderate-andlow-intensity activity soliciting aerobic metabolism.

Minorinjuriessuch as lacerations are the most commoninjuriesinsurfing. Overuseinjuriesin the shoulder, lower backandneck area are becoming more commonandhave been suggested to be associated with the repetitive arm stroke action during board paddling. Further research is needed in all areas ofsurfingperformance in order to gain an understanding of the sportandeventually to bringsurfingto the next level of performance. Mendez-Villanueva A. Bishop D.Physiological aspects of surfboard riding performance.Sports Medicine. 35(1):55-70, 2005. 

A prospective study of acute competitivesurfinginjurieswas carried out at 32 professionalandamateursurfingcontests worldwide between 1999and2005. All acuteinjuriessustained during competition were recorded by on-site medical personnel. The wave size, type of seafloor,andnumber ofsurfingheats were also recorded for each day. The total number ofinjurieswas divided by the total number of athlete exposures to determine injury rates. Risk of injury was 2.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.5-3.9) times greater whensurfingin waves overhead or bigger relative to smaller wavesand2.6 (95% confidence interval, 1.3-5.2) times greater whensurfingover a rock or reef bottom relative to a sandy bottom. There were 13 acutesurfinginjuriesper 1000 hours of competitivesurfing. The risk of injury was more than doubled whensurfingin large waves or over a hard seafloor.( Nathanson A. Bird S. Dao L. Tam-Sing K.Competitivesurfinginjuries: a prospective study ofsurfing-relatedinjuriesamong contest surfers. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 35(1):113-7, 2007). 

Surfers considered the risk of head injury whilesurfingas moderate or high,andonly 12 (1.9%, 95% CI 1.0-3.3) reported routine use of headgear. The surfers were more likely to believe that there was a higher risk of head injury in other sportsandphysical activities (P < .001). Although 475 surfers (73.8%, 95% CI 70.2-77.1) thought that surfers who wear headgear are less likely to become injured, 400 (62.1%, 95% CI 58.2-65.9) reported that headgear restrictedsurfingperformanceandthat they would rather surf without it. The main reasons for not wearing headgear were "no need," discomfort, claustrophobia,andeffects upon the sensesandbalance. Although most surfers acknowledge some risk of head injury, headgear is rarely usedandbarriers to its use are apparent. Research is required to clarify the risk of head injury among surfersandthe effectiveness of headgear in reducing injury risk. Until this evidence is available, educational initiatives, improved headgear design,andprofile within thesurfingculture would be required to increase rates of wearing headgear. (Taylor DM. Bennett D. Carter M. Garewal D. Finch C.Perceptions of surfboard riders regarding the need for protective headgear.Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 16(2):75-80, 2005.

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