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Injury patterns in competitive and recreational surfing: a systematic review


Context Despite the growing evidence regarding surf-related injuries, investigation seems to overlook the differences between professional and recreational surfers’ injuries and their specific risk factors.

Objective This review aimed at identifying differences in injuries sustained by recreational and competitive surfers. It also presents research gaps and suggests recommendations for future injury research and prevention.

Methods Study search was conducted on MEDLINE/PubMed, SportDiscus and Web of Science databases. To be included studies needed to report original data, clearly specify if recreational and/or competitive surfers were included, provide information regarding acute surfing injuries and/or analyse data concerning those injuries.

Results 17 studies were included in the analysis. All included studies had at least Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine level of evidence 3. The percentage of recreational surfers sustaining at least one injury ranged from 31% to 35% in the 12 months prior to data collection and from 88% to 100% in lifetime while 42% to 49% and 81% to 100% of competitors were injured over the same periods. Competitive surfers appear to have a higher injury risk. Both recreational and competitive surfers appear to sustain more frequently skin, joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries affecting the lower limbs and caused by contact with their own equipment.

Conclusions Competitive status, less surfing experience, older age and prior surgical injuries are risk factors for sustaining injuries while surfing. The most common types, anatomical locations and mechanisms of injury seem to be similar between recreational and competitive surfers.

  • recreation / sports
  • systematic review
  • sports / leisure facility
  • exposure

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.

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