25 January 2019

Surfing and the Spine – New Study

A recent study into the injuries and risks associated with competitive surfing found that 20% of competitive surfers sustained a lower back injury while in competition.

The study, ‘An Australian survey on health and injuries in adult competitive surfing’, also found that 81% of those surveyed incurred at least one surfing-related injury in their lifetime, while 58% have experienced a surfing-related injury within the current surfing season.

Three chiropractors, Drs Andrew Burgess, Michael Swain and Reidar Lystad conducted the investigation. They studied the injury profile of competitive surfers at the 2014 Australian Surfing Title by examining surfing injuries in relation to the type of surfboard used including short boards, long boards, body boards, etc.

“The current research that was published didn’t clarify who was participating in their studies based on surf craft use, this meant the data was representing one large broad-based surf group. This led us to separate the surf codes and determine whether there were any differences or similarities between their injury profiles,” Dr Burgess said.

Along with these injury figures, only 44% reported seeking treatments for at least one surfing related injury in the current season.

This study is also believed to be the first to differentiate the injury profile of short board, long board and body board riders, it was discovered that short boarders have a higher frequency of knee injuries compared to long boarders, with 29% of short boarders incurring injuries, compared to 9%.

The study also investigated the overall physical and mental health of surfers discovering that they generally maintained well balanced diets and consumed alcohol at a lower risk level than the average Australian.

The study concluded that Australian competitive surfers fit the stereotype of healthy and active people, however, are susceptible to specific injuries related to their sport, with acknowledgement of further research to be conducted.

With the lower back as a main area of injury amongst surfers and 2.7 million Australians participating within the sport, the information can be passed on to advise recreational and competitive surfers to see a chiropractor for help with managing and preventing these injuries as well as ways to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“Due to the high participation rates in Australia, chiropractors would be exposed to a number of surfers in their office whom they can share this information with and encourage others to receive the same health benefits from activate participation in the sport.”

Dr Burgess hopes that further research in this field could also be completed by chiropractors looking at the effectiveness of their treatment to assist surfers with their injuries as well as further investigating the physical and mental health benefits of surfing.

Full article – Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness https://doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.18.08381-0

Image left to right: Chiropractor Dr Andrew Burgess, Australian competitive surfer Blake Thornton and current Surfing NSW CEO Luke Madden