The epidemiology of injury among surfers, kite surfers and personal watercraft riders: wind and waves

Med Sport Sci. 2012:58:80-97. doi: 10.1159/000338583. Epub 2012 Jul 18.


The objective of this review was to summarize the epidemiological literature for surfboard riding (surfing), kite surfing and personal watercraft (PWC) riding injuries and describe the incidence and nature of these injuries, common risk factors, and strategies for prevention. The databases searched for relevant publications included Medline, ScienceDirect, ProQuest International, PubMed, Academic Search Premier as well as Google Scholar to identify additional, non-indexed studies. Overall, there was a lack of good quality descriptive studies for these three sports and many of the studies reviewed involved the use of administrative datasets or case-series designs. Among the few studies to provide incidence estimates, there were inconsistencies in how injury was defined, the inclusion criteria, and the reporting of incidence rates, making comparisons within and between the sports difficult. While the reported incidence rates were generally low, head and lower extremity injuries were common across all three sports. Only two studies reported evidence for postulated risk factors. Bigger waves and surfing over rock or reef sea floor increased the risk of injury among competitive surfers, while older age and having more experience increased the risk of significant injuries among recreational surfers. No evaluations of preventative measures were identified. This review demonstrates the need for well-designed epidemiological research, especially studies that focus on the accurate measurement and description of incidence, nature, severity and circumstances of injuries. Once this has occurred, interventions targeted at reducing the incidence of injuries among these sports can be designed, implemented and evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / economics
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / economics
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Lower Extremity / injuries
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Risk Factors
  • Tidal Waves*
  • Wind*