In contrast, previous studies conducted by Nathanson researching the injuries of recreational surfers found that lacerations and contusions were the most common reported injury these were the second most common injury among contest surfers. Most of these injuries were caused by direct contact between a surfer and a surfboard either their own or another surfer's.
"The fact that cuts were found to be less common among surfers during a competition makes sense since it's a more controlled environment compared to a recreational surfing-type atmosphere. In competitions, there are a limited number of surfers in the water during each heat and the skill level is very high. On the other hand, recreational surfers are often trying to catch waves in a dense crowd of surfers of varying abilities," says Nathanson.
The authors note that although age and gender had no bearing on the injury rate, wave size and bottom type, independently, were significantly associated with a great chance of injury.
"It would come as little surprise to most surfers that the injury rate more than doubles when surfing in larger surf (overhead) compared to smaller waves, as the energy of waves increases as it grows in height. In addition, a sea floor with a sandy bottom is much more forgiving upon impact than one covered with reefs or rocks," says Nathanson.
The paper cites that establishing an injury rate for surfing is not just of academic or general interest, but also has implications for the insurance industry and for schools that may want to start a surfing team.
"The information could also help to predict the needs of medical staff support at contests and aid in the design of safer surfboards and protective equipment such as helmets," Nathanson adds.