Surfing has exploded in popularity in recent years. In 2013, an estimated 37 million people worldwide participated in surfing, compared to approximately 13 million in 2002.Surfer on wave

It is challenging for sports medicine orthopedic surgeons and physicians to know much about the incidence of injuries in surfing. A large percentage of surfers do so recreationally and therefore are hard to capture in research studies. This data is critical, though. A better understanding of injuries in the sport could lead to specific injury prevention efforts to make surfing safer.

Australian researchers James Turness and others attempted to collect that data. They surveyed recreational and competitive surfers in their country. They received completed surveys from 1348 surfers. 91.3% of the surfers were male, and just over 43% were competitive surfers. The study found some interesting findings on injury information among surfers:

• Out of 1348 surfers, 512 claimed to have suffered an acute major injury. A surfer could suffer more than one injury, so the total number of acute major injuries reported was 739.
• An estimated 1.79 major injuries occurred for every 1000 hours of surfing.
Competitive surfers were more likely to suffer acute injuries than recreational surfers. Not surprisingly, surfers who spent more time participating were more likely to suffer injuries.
47.1% of injuries resulted from direct trauma – either contact with the surfboard or with the ocean floor. 32.7% occurred from wave riding, and 10.1% resulted from paddling.
• The shoulder was the site of the most injuries, making up 16.4% of surfing injuries. The other common body locations injured included the ankle (14.6%) and head and face (13.3%). Competitive surfers were also more likely to suffer knee injuries than recreational surfers.

Also read:
Head and neck injuries in extreme sports
5 signs your shoulder injury could be serious

Do these injury statistics surprise you? What can we do to decrease the risk of surfing injuries? Please share your thoughts below!

Furness J, Hing W, Walsh J, Abbott A, Sheppard JM, Climstein M. Acute Injuries in Recreational and Competitive Surfers: Incidence, Severity, Location, Type, and Mechanism. Am J Sports Med. Published online February 2, 2015.

Moran K, Webber J. Surfing injuries requiring first aid in New Zealand, 2007-2012. Int J Aquatic Res Educ. 2013;7:192-203.