Surfing USA!



Inside looking out at Rocky Point, Hawaii

Spring is finally here in Rhode Island! What’s better? Summer. And it is just around the corner. With summer comes the beach and finally the summer Olympics in Tokyo! This year they are planning to have surfing in the summer games for the first time in history, which is sort of cool. It legitimizes a sport to be in the Olympics. It is no longer just for outcasts and hippies. Surfing has gone global. So it had me thinking about all the injuries that surfers from all around the world have had to go through to get to the games.

Surfing is a dynamic sport that has many physical demands. Everyone that surfs knows that they spend most of their time paddling but they probably didn’t know that there is extensive research into the matter. A 2020 systematic review of the literature found that “surfers spend their time in four distinct categories: paddling, stationary, wave riding, and miscellaneous (e.g., wading, recovering after falling off the board, and duck diving), with both recreational and professional surfers spending approximately 50%, 40%, 3%, and 7% respectively in each category”. The act of riding the wave only takes up 3% of the time. Makes sense why a nice wave is so cherished by surfers. They spend 97% of their time struggling to get to their feet so they can wave dance. Like any sport you have both traumatic injuries and overuse injuries that both can qualify as acute injuries. But most surfers never stop, and they end up developing chronic issues. The research found that Spine/back make up 29.3% of injuries; shoulder makes up 22.9%, and head/face/neck at 17.5% were the most frequently reported locations of musculoskeletal injury. The most common mechanism of injury was paddling, which caused around 37.1% of injuries. The paddling never stops. You will always want just one more wave.

Blog Author and Physical Therapist, Kyle Halavik working on his hip mobility

Because the paddling never ends, we need to treat surfers with a different mentality in physical therapy. We need to realize that each geographic location has different prime surf seasons and subprime seasons. In Rhode Island we basically have no waves in the summer. It's when everyone associates surfing (Thanks ‘Endless Summer’) and the beach but it is not the best time of year for our area. Why is this so important? With normal sports like basketball, an injured athlete and PT work together to manage an injury during the season. It is not until the offseason where we get out of injury management and into true rehabilitation. So summer is the best time of year to treat the repetitive sprain/strain injuries in the neck, shoulder, and low back. Rehab the painful knees, tight hips and stiff ankles that can occur with surfing. So if you have a new injury or a nagging one and you are worried about being able to surf pain free again, come down to our Wakefield office and I’ll happily use my skills to get you back on board!

Sports 2021, 9(2), 23;