Objective: To examine the use of protective headgear by surfers, their perceptions of its usefulness, and barriers to its use.
Methods: A researcher-administered questionnaire was used to undertake a cross-sectional survey of 646 surfboard riders at 8 popular surfing beaches in Victoria, Australia. The main outcome measures were rate of use of headgear, perceptions of head injury risk relative to a range of other activities, perceptions regarding headgear, and the reasons for not wearing headgear.
Results: Most surfers were men (90.2%), young (mean age 28.2 years), and experienced (mean years of surfing 11.6). Only 245 (38.0%, 95% CI 34.2-41.9) surfers considered the risk of head injury while surfing as moderate or high, and only 12 (1.9%, 95% CI 1.0-3.3) reported routine use of headgear. The surfers were more likely to believe that there was a higher risk of head injury in other sports and physical activities (P < .001). Although 475 surfers (73.8%, 95% CI 70.2-77.1) thought that surfers who wear headgear are less likely to become injured, 400 (62.1%, 95% CI 58.2-65.9) reported that headgear restricted surfing performance and that they would rather surf without it. The main reasons for not wearing headgear were "no need," discomfort, claustrophobia, and effects upon the senses and balance.
Conclusions: Although most surfers acknowledge some risk of head injury, headgear is rarely used and barriers to its use are apparent. Research is required to clarify the risk of head injury among surfers and the effectiveness of headgear in reducing injury risk. Until this evidence is available, educational initiatives, improved headgear design, and profile within the surfing culture would be required to increase rates of wearing headgear.