2007 January 02 Tuesday
Surfing Safer Than Soccer And Basketball

Soccer (called football in most countries outside the United States and Canada) has a reputation as a relatively safe sport as compared to American football. Soccer moms who drive Volvos would rather their kids play soccer than more risky sports. Bet those soccer moms see surfing as a dangerous sport as well. But don't be too quick to trust your intuitions ladies. Soccer players rack up injuries faster than surfers.

Providence, RI -- While public perception may frame surfing as a dangerous sport, new research begs to differ. In the first study of its kind, researchers have computed the rate of injury among competitive surfers and found they are less prone to harm than collegiate soccer or basketball players. Led by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School, the findings of the study are published in the January 2007 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

"We found that competitive surfing has a relatively low risk of injury 6.6 significant injuries per 1,000 hours of surfing - compared to other sports for which comparable data is available," says lead author Andrew Nathanson, MD, an emergency medicine physician with Rhode Island Hospital's Injury Prevention Center. "However, the risk of injury more than doubled when surfing in large waves or over an area with a hard bottom."

The sport of surfing has rapidly grown in popularity since the 1960's, but little is known about surfing injuries especially the relative frequency, mechanisms and risk factors. Nathanson and his research team collected injury data from 32 surfing contests worldwide, both professional and amateur. Documentation of every acute surfing injury sustained during competition was recorded, as well as wave size, mechanism of injury and treatment. "Significant" injuries were qualified as those that prevented the surfer from surfing for one or more days, resulted in a hospital visit, or required on-site suturing.

But how do the fatality rates compare? You can drown or break your neck surfing. On the other hand, you could hit your head pretty hard in sports played on the ground.

Big waves double the danger.

"It would come as little surprise to most surfers that the injury rate more than doubles when surfing in larger surf (overhead) compared to smaller waves, as the energy of waves increases as it grows in height. In addition, a sea floor with a sandy bottom is much more forgiving upon impact than one covered with reefs or rocks," says Nathanson.

I'm guessing their "larger" is an average for a range. Giant waves are probably much more dangerous.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 January 02 09:30 PM  Off Beat And Odd

Bob Badour said at January 3, 2007 6:35 AM:

When was the last time you heard of a shark-bite fatality on the soccer field?

ANM said at January 3, 2007 4:31 PM:

[The link is broken]
It's not quite fair to compare professional athletes in the sports noted and generalize that to amateurs. I can imagine that professional surfers have a smaller chance of getting injured (having somewhat mastered the ocean), while professional soccer players aren't much less injury-prone than their amateur counterparts (or perhaps more so, due to agression, competitiveness, etc.). And, as you noted, surfing injuries seem to have much greater potential for catastrophe.

Rob said at January 3, 2007 5:47 PM:

Don't forget the IQ loss and general brain damage from heading the ball in soccer.

Randall Parker said at January 3, 2007 6:39 PM:


Yes, I've long suspected that the use of the head as a ball hitting instrument has got to kill some neurons.

Dave said at January 3, 2007 8:55 PM:

In Britain some famous guy did die of it.

"Both Albion and their fans were shocked by his death in 2002 in Queen's Hospital Burton upon Trent, at the age of just 59, from a degenerative brain disease. Failing mental ability had first become apparent as much as five years earlier. He had been an exceptional header of the ball, and the coroner found that the repeated minor trauma had been the cause of his death. (It should be noted that the leather footballs used in Astle's playing days were considerably heavier than the plastic ones of today, especially when wet.) A verdict of death by industrial injury was recorded."
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Astle

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