Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, USA
Background. The aim of this study is to review the literature on surfing injuries, with a focus on severe injuries, big-wave surfing and injury prevention.
Methods. A literature search of the MEDLINE database from 1980 to present via Pubmed and OVID was done using the terms surfing, bodyboarding, bodysurfing, injury and injuries. Relevant books and websites were also referenced regarding recommendations for injury prevention. A total of 46 articles were retrieved, from which 37 were selected.
Results. The injury rate in surfing has been found to be 1.8 significant injuries per 1,000 hours and 3.5 per 1,000 days for recreational surfers and 4.0 per 1,000 days and 6.6 per 1,000 hours for competitive surfers. Lacerations are the most common type of injury accounting for 37-46% of all injuries followed by sprains/strain, contusions, fractures and dislocations. Impacts with surfboards (45 – 66%) and the sea floor are the most common mechanisms of injury. The most catastrophic injuries include drowning and injuries to the head and neck, often caused by impact with the sea floor.
Conclusions. Surfing is relatively safe compared to other extreme sports. Injury rates can likely be mitigated by the modification of surfboard design and the use of protective personal equipment.