We always hear about how good surfing is for you, how healthy it can make you, how fit your body will be, but we don’t always hear about the surfing injuries you can sustain. Just like any other sport, surfing can be dangerous and there are already a few health conditions that are getting named after the sport (surfers ear is one, we’ll come on to that later). Being aware of these health risks and making sure you protect yourself against them is important if you want to keep surfing into old age.
And the Most Common Surfing Injuries are… Cuts
Not that surprising really is it? Yes, lacerations to the skin are what surfing is most likely to inflict on you. Whether it’s from being hit with a surfboard, coming into close contact with fins, scraping yourself on rocks or being dragged across a coral reef, cuts can range from band-aid treatable to stitches at the hospital. So how do you protect yourself against cuts? This is the hard part, because you can’t entirely. However, there are ways to reduce the risk.
Wearing a wetsuit gives your skin an extra layer of protection, so there’s a plus for the cold water surfers. Dulling down your fins and sharp surfboard nose with sand paper is another good idea. If you’re surfing big waves then wear a helmet to avoid potentially fatal head injuries, by hitting the board or the sea floor. As for surfing over coral reefs, wear reef booties unless you like potato-peeler grazes and pulling out urchin spines.
Some surfing injuries only apply to certain surfers, in this case it’s wave riders who surf the wave rich cold regions across the earth. It’s called surfers ear and it’s nasty. In a nutshell, the continual and prolonged exposure to cold water causes the ear canal to produce more bone. As times goes by this increased bone production eventually leads to your ear canal closing in on itself with excess bone. Ringing in the ear, increased risk of ear infections, and head pain are a few of the symptoms.
The treatment? A doctor will have to bore out your ear canal, drilling through and chiseling away the excess bones in your ear canal. Sound bad doesn’t it? It is. The solution for never having to go through this discomfort and pain is to wear earplugs. If you’re a cold water surfer the sooner you do it the better.
Worn Rotator Cuff
When you surf the one thing you’re doing more than anything else is paddling. The time you spend standing on your board is tiny compared to the time you spend powering those arms around and around. At the center of paddling are your shoulders, which become very developed, and your rotator cuffs, which become very worn out. The repeated movement of paddling with a bad technique, which is to not keep your arm straight, gradually wears away the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder.
You need to practice good technique throughout your years of surfing to avoid ending up with a rotator cuff injury. That not means learning proper technique from the get go, so remember to keep your arms straight. Try not to pull your arm under your body when you pull back through a stroke. This really is one of those surfing injuries that can be avoided, but if you do suffer from it doctors have pretty well-developed treatment to get you back on track.
Here’s a big one that too many surfers tend to overlook. Love surfing in your boardies and letting those warming sun rays bronze up your skin? Who doesn’t right, but you’re drastically increasing the risk of contracting skin cancer by doing so. At the very least you’re skin will lose its elastically, wrinkle, and dry out.
If you’re out surfing for a few hours in the sun then you simply got to cover up your skin, boardshorts and t-shirt are a minimum along with liberal doses of sunscreen, not SPF 2 tanning oil. Watermans Sunscreen is specially formulated for surfers and comes in SPF50+ as standard, so get some.
Those are just a few of the more common surfing injuries you should be aware of, but there are a hell of a lot more out there. Irritating rashes in sensitive areas, diseases spread through dirty sea water, terrifying shark attacks, and much more. For the lowdown on staying alive and healthy while enjoying the surf check out Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook. It covers every surf-related injury you could possibly imagine and what to do in an emergency, handy stuff.
Featured image: @seekingsantosha via Instagram