Few sports are more alluring than surfing. White-capped ocean waves crashing against the shore are a surfer’s siren song.
Sprinting across the sand, surfboards in hand, surfers catapult their bodies atop a heavy surfboard that sprints above the fast-moving water rushing toward them. The wave lovers paddle out to sea, heads held high in search of the next big wave to ride.
Amazing though it sounds, it could also be a moving picture of a neck injury that’s occurring in real time. Surfers’ necks get a lot of pressure placed on them while balancing on the board, and the occasional heavy impact from falling or crashing into other surfers can also contribute to potential neck problems.
Can I Get Neck Pain from Surfing?
Most people don’t regard surfing as a contact sport, but surfers understand the physical impact of hitting the water, the surfboard itself, or even another surfer. While surfing is usually safer on the head and neck than sports like football and soccer, surfers can incur neck injuries.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over 45 percent of injuries reported in a recent surfing survey were related to collisions – either with the surfboard or another surfer.
Plus, most of the time surfers spend on the water is while paddling or trying to keep still; only about 5 percent of surfing is actually riding the waves. This means that the neck muscles can develop an overuse injury.
What Is Surfer’s Neck?
Simply paddling on a surfboard can make a surfer develop surfer’s neck. This is because maintaining a constant lift of the head while in the prone position (lying flat on the chest) creates pressure on the neck muscles surrounding the cervical spine, which is located in the back of the neck.
This pressure compresses the nerves, which can cause neck pain – and this is called surfer’s neck.
This discomfort can come on suddenly following a hard wipeout or after a long day of surfing. Pains in the neck may also develop after many years of enjoying the sport.
How Pressure Builds in the Cervical Spine
A look at the neck’s anatomy and how muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae are connected will help provide a better explanation of how surfing can cause neck problems. There are seven vertebrae in the cervical spine, and discs provide cushioning between each set of two adjacent vertebrae in the spine.
These discs behave as shock absorbers as the neck and back are pummeled by the impact brought on by the waves as a surfer is paddling. The constant paddling motion causes muscles to contract, which in turn causes extreme tension.
The constant contraction and resulting tension shortens the neck muscles. The result is pain and discomfort caused by muscle spasms.
Plus, the discs between the vertebrae are overworked and become inflamed. Inflammation surrounding the ligaments and tendons, bones, muscles, and nerves result in stiffness and pain.
Above all, the impact of a powerful wave is the primary contributor to neck injuries. The greater the force of a wave, the greater the chance of sustaining a surfing injury.
Preventing Neck Injuries While Surfing
Taking a few precautions while surfing will assist in preventing neck injury.
First, because many of the injuries that occur to surfers are a result of slamming into the board, adjustments to your surfboard will help decrease the chance of injury. Adding a rubber or plastic guard to the nose of the board or choosing a surfboard with a soft top will soften the blow and lessen the impact on the neck.
Second, a longer leash increases the distance between the surfer and the board, and this will help to reduce the chance of hitting the board while falling.
Third, warming up with stretches and light exercise before paddling out to sea will increase a surfer’s flexibility, thereby decreasing the opportunity for injury. Regular exercise also increases muscle strength, which will help to prevent overuse injuries.
Orthopedic Doctor in Panama City
Dr. James Talkington can accurately assess your neck injury, and he will diagnose and treat your condition or other orthopedic concerns.
Call our office today at (850) 763-0346 for more information or to schedule a consultation, or request an appointment online now. We look forward to helping you enjoy a more pain-free, active lifestyle.