"We found that competitive surfing has a relatively low risk of injury ?6.6 significant injuries per 1,000 hours of surfing - compared to other sports for which comparable data is available," says lead author Andrew Nathanson, MD, an emergency medicine physician with Rhode Island Hospital's Injury Prevention Center. "However, the risk of injury more than doubled when surfing in large waves or over an area with a hard bottom."
The sport of surfing has rapidly grown in popularity since the 1960's, but little is known about surfing injuries ?especially the relative frequency, mechanisms and risk factors. Nathanson and his research team collected injury data from 32 surfing contests worldwide, both professional and amateur. Documentation of every acute surfing injury sustained during competition was recorded, as well as wave size, mechanism of injury and treatment. "Significant" injuries were qualified as those that prevented the surfer from surfing for one or more days, resulted in a hospital visit, or required on-site suturing.
"Sprains and strains to the lower extremities, particularly the knees, were found to be the most common injuries reported. This is likely due to the aggressive turning and aerial maneuvers, which score highly in competitions, but also appear to place high stress on a surfer's knee," says Nathanson, who is also an emergency physician at The Miriam Hospital and an assistant professor at Brown Medical School, both in Providence, RI.