Traumatic surfing injuries in New Zealand: a descriptive epidemiology study

James Furness, Katherine McArthur, Debbie Remnant, Darcy Jorgensen, Catherine J. Bacon, Robert W. Moran, Wayne A Hing, Michael Climstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


New Zealand (NZ) has nearly 14,000 km of coastline and a surfing population of approximately 315,000 surfers. Given its popularity, surfing has a high frequency of injury claims, however, there remains a lack of data on traumatic surfing-related injuries from large population studies. The primary purpose of this study was to examine traumatic surfing injuries in NZ specific to injury incidence, duration, location, type, mechanism of injury and associated risk factors.

A sample of self-identified surfers currently living in NZ participated in an online retrospective cross-sectional survey between December 2015 and July 2016. Demographic and surfing injury data were collected and analysed.

The survey yielded 1,473 respondents (18.3% female); a total of 502 surfers reported 702 major traumatic injuries with an overall incidence proportion of 0.34 (95% CI [0.32–0.37]). When comparing the number of injured surfers who sustained an injury at various body locations, a significantly higher proportion of competitive surfers, compared to recreational surfers, had an injury at the neck (6.8% vs 4%, χ2 (1,1473) = 5.84, P = 0.019); shoulder (7.4% vs 4.3%, χ2 (1,1473) = 6.34, P = 0.017), upper back (1% vs 2.4%, χ2 (1,1473) = 4.77, P = 0.043), lower back (7% vs 3.1%, χ2 (1,1473) = 11.98, P = 0.001) and knee (7% vs 3.4%, χ2 (1,1473) = 9.67, P = 0.003). A significantly higher proportion of surfers who performed aerial manoeuvres compared to those who did not reported a higher proportion of knee injuries (9.7% vs 3.9%, χ2 (1,1473) = 13.00, P = 0.001). With respect to injury duration, the shoulder represented the largest proportion of chronic injuries (>3 months) (44.4%), and the head and face represented the largest proportion of acute injuries (≤3 months) (88%). Muscle and tendon injuries were reported most frequently (25.6%) and direct contact injuries accounted for 58.1% of all injury mechanisms. Key risk factors for traumatic injury included: competitive compared to recreational status (41.0% vs 30.1%, Relative Risk (RR) = 1.36, P < 0.001), ability to perform aerial manoeuvres (48.1% vs 31.8%, RR = 1.51, P < 0.001) and intermediate or above skill level surfers compared to beginner surfers (35.8% vs 22.7%, RR = 1.58, P < 0.001).

One third of recreational surfers sustained a major traumatic injury in the previous 12 months. For competitive or aerialist surfers the risk was greater, with this proportion approximately half. Overall, the head/face was the most common location of traumatic injury, with competitive surfers being more likely to sustain a neck, shoulder, lower back, and knee injury compared to recreational surfers. The shoulder was associated with the highest proportion of injuries of chronic duration. Future research should investigate injury mechanisms and causation using prospective injury monitoring to better underpin targeted injury prevention programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12334
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Traumatic surfing injuries in New Zealand: a descriptive epidemiology study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this