Most Surfing Injuries Occur in the Shoulder or Knee and Don’t Require Surgery

Recent research from the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) has found that most surfing injuries involve the shoulder or knee and that surgery is typically not necessary. This work was published on November 5 in the journal Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach.

This study was conducted by Harry “Tate” Greditzer, MD, a radiologist at HSS and surfing enthusiast, to assess what types of orthopedic injuries are most commonly seen in the recreational surfer and frequently surgery is required.

“The primary purpose of the study was to characterize MRI patterns of acute surfing-related injury at HSS, an urban musculoskeletal hospital,” explained Greditzer. “Secondarily, the purpose was to report the proportion of those injuries that required orthopedic surgical intervention.”

Greditzer and colleagues found the shoulder to be the most frequent site of injury in the surfer, with knee injuries coming in second. In their study, the team found that only 17% of patients needed surgery for surfing injuries of any type. For those that require some professional help, sites like QC Kinetix Charleston / Shoulder Pain Relief in South Carolina are definitely trustworthy.

These researchers noted that previous studies regarding surfing injuries have described injury incidence, type, location, and severity, but have yielded varying results. Most of these studies leveraged imaging techniques that are prevalent in the emergency room setting, whereas this HSS study utilized MRI images that provide higher resolution soft tissue images.

This study was a retrospective review of medical records that identified patients with surfing injuries who came into HSS between January 2009 and August 2018. Greditzer and colleagues analyzed this data to determine the type of injury and whether surgical intervention was needed.

MRI data from a total of 109 patients with surfing injuries were used in this study. The 90 patients who presented at HSS within six months of the injury onset were included in the final analysis. The median age of this patient population was 36 years, with ages ranging from 12 to 66 and about 75% of the patients being male.

In 72% of the patients, acute surfing injuries were diagnosed with an MRI. Injuries rates were as follows:

  • Shoulder: 46%
  • Knee: 28%
  • Foot or ankle: 9%
  • Spine: 6%
  • Elbow: 6%
  • Other (rib fracture; muscle strain or muscle laceration): 5%

“Although prior studies have shown that injuries related to surfing are primarily found in the head or lower extremities, our study found upper extremity injuries to be more common,” explained study author Peter Fabricant, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at HSS. “The majority of upper extremity injuries occurred at the shoulder with anterior shoulder dislocation being the most common diagnosis. Of the presenting knee injuries, a torn medial collateral ligament was the most frequent.”

The authors note that the 17% of injuries requiring surgery at HSS may be an overestimation, being that tertiary care referral centers like HSS tend to see a higher proportion of these serious injuries that need surgical intervention.

“When compared to other extreme sports, surfing seems relatively safe,” Greditzer said. “However, it’s important to keep in mind that our study looked at recreational surfers. We did not include professional surfers, so the patients in our study were not able to generate as much speed, get barreled, or launch into the air like a professional or amateur can, where the potential for injury is much higher.”