Understanding injury epidemiology in water based sports: Surfing and stand up paddle boarding

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearchpeer-review


Background: There are an estimated 37 million recreational surfers worldwide and an exponential growth of stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Activity requirements are unique within surfing and SUP and subsequently the injury profiles reveal both similarities and differences in each sport. Purpose: To investigate injury epidemiology (severity, location, type, mechanism and risk factors) in the water sports of surfing and SUP and subsequently provide clinicians with evidence for injury prevention strategies. Methods: Epidemiological data was captured using an open-source online survey application specific to active surfing or SUP participants. The survey captured information relevant to demographics, participation and injury history in the past 12 months. Results: Surfing (n = 1,348) and SUP (n = 240) participants revealed a total of 512 and 95 acute injuries respectively. Subsequently, an incidence rate of 1.79 vs. 3.63 injuries per 1000 hours was calculated for surfing and SUP respectively. The shoulder region was the most frequently injured body part in both surfing and SUP (16.4% vs. 32.9% respectively). The ankle (14.6%) and head region (13.3%) were frequently injured in the surfing cohort; conversely, the lower back (14.3%) and elbow (11.8%) were frequently injured in the SUP participants. Higher frequencies of both muscular and joint origin were found in both surfing and SUP participants (30.3%, 27.7% vs. 50.4%, 22.6% respectively). Direct trauma (47.1%) and performing manoeuvres (32.7%) were the primary mechanism of injury in the surfing participants; whereas the primary mechanism of injury in the SUP participants included endurance paddling (34.5%), followed by contact with the paddlers own board (20.1%). Key risk factors for sustaining an acute injury in both surfing and SUP participants included competitive status and participation of more than 5 hours per week. The ability to perform aerial manoeuvres was a risk factor exclusive to the surfing participants; while age (>40 years) was a risk factor specific to SUP participants. Conclusion(s): This is one of the largest epidemiological data sets specific to surfing and SUP. The results revealed similarities between these sports; whereby both surfing and SUP revealed low injury rates, high frequencies of shoulder injuries and the risk factors of competitive status and increased participation. Mechanism of injury appears to be related to the unpredictable nature of surfing; conversely, it is the repetitive paddling nature of SUP which is the primary cause of injury. Aerial manoeuvres are a unique risk factor to surfing participants, whereas those over 40 years were at a higher risk of injury in the SUP participants. Implications: This epidemiological data provides clinicians with a comprehensive injury profile of two popular water based sports. The results give some guidance to clinicians when assessing injury prone regions to determine musculoskeletal imbalances and those at risk of acute injury and overuse injury. Screening methods should focus upon assessment of range of motion and strength at injury prone locations, biomechanical analysis (including aerial landing technique in surfing and paddling technique in SUP) and training volume. Key-Words: Water Sports; Injury; Epidemiology
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017
EventWorld Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 2 Jul 20174 Jul 2017
Conference number: 2017


ConferenceWorld Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding injury epidemiology in water based sports: Surfing and stand up paddle boarding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this