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Injury prevention linked to physical conditioning in surfing

Bond University researcher James Furness is actively recruiting competitive and recreational female and male surfers, which will contribute to the development of groundbreaking injury prevention strategies, and improve the participant's surfing practice.

In Australia's largest study of surfers, Mr Furness has found recreational surfers suffer significantly more chronic injuries compared to their competitive counterparts.

This may explain the role of being physically conditioned for the sport, as many competitive surfers are involved in additional physical conditioning exercises.

While the risk of acute injury is higher among surfers who push their bodies to the limit, the survey results to date have revealed that recreational surfers have significantly higher rates of chronic injuries than competitive surfers. Mr Furness and his team have surveyed more than 1,300 surfers from around Australia for his PhD study into acute and chronic injuries in competitive and recreational surfers, and he is now actively seeking more participants to be part of the next stage of the study.

"Despite there being over 2.5 million recreational surfers within Australia, and 37 million worldwide, there has been very little research done into surfing injuries," he said.

"The purpose of this study was to identify the incidence, severity, location and type of acute injuries in participants over a 12 month period and in turn, to provide a foundation for injury prevention strategies. "With surfing hot spots becoming more overcrowded and more surfers experimenting with new surfing techniques such as aerial manoeuvres, introducing effective preventative measures to help reduce the injury rate is becoming far more crucial. "We have gathered the data and we are now recruiting surfers to be part of the next stage, which consists of comprehensive physical assessments."

During stage two of the study, participants undergo a thorough physiological assessment including a VO2 max test to test the participants' rate of oxygen consumption and a full body composition scan. Surfers are then assessed for flexibility and strength through a range of physiotherapy assessment techniques.

Mr Furness - who is a Consultant Physiotherapist for Surfing Australia and a clinical skills tutor at Bond University - says competitive surfers are more likely to take part in strength and conditioning training outside of surfing than recreational surfers, but this does not mean surf pros are impervious to debilitating injuries.

"Aerial surfing has been gaining momentum and this study has revealed that those who experiment with aerial manoeuvres are more at risk of acute injury, regardless of competitive status," he said.

"Injuries reported were predominantly of muscular, joint and skin origin, with joint and muscle injuries being primarily a result of manoeuvres performed and repetitive actions. There has also been an increase in soft tissue sprains and strains, with acute shoulder injuries commonly resulting from paddling.

"The results have reinforced the importance of being well conditioned when hitting the water, regardless of the amount of time spent surfing. The research may aid in reducing the occurrence of injury through musculoskeletal screening and the use of sports specific training and conditioning."

A number of high-profile surfers have already participated in stage two of the study including Bede Durbidge, Adam Melling, Mitch Crews and Dion Atkinson, all of whom are on the World Championship Tour (WCT) which consists of the top 40 surfers in the world.

Local competitive surfer Freya Prumm, who is currently ranked number 39 in the world, has also participated in study, and says the results of the assessment have helped her to improve her strength and conditioning training for optimum performance in the water.

"Being a part of this study was huge step for me in edging toward my surfing goals," she said.

"After a thorough assessment by James and his team, I was given informative feedback on where my physical strengths and weaknesses lie.

"Following a plan to address those weaknesses, I immediately began enjoying improvements in the water.

"For anyone interested in improving any aspect of their surfing, I urge you to take advantage of this free opportunity."

The study has also engaged recreational surfers with at least one year experience, from teenagers through to older surfers.

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