Did you know the latest statistic for injuries in surfing is 4 injuries per 1000 days of surfing.
I recently found out injuries in surfing are progressing as fast as the sport itself, which may seem pretty obvious if you think about it. It wasnʼt so long ago a big move was a layback carve and the most common injuries were shoulders from over use and minor medial ligament tears in the knees. Nowadays a big move is a kerrupt flip or rodeo clown, making big airs, air reverses and other twisting, high body impact moves the norm. You only have to watch the ASP events to see that that’s what you have to do to get through a heat in a contest now.
In turn this progression has caused our most common injuries progress too, I found this out the hard way and if you want to continue surfing at a high level and still be able to surf till you’re wrinkled and grey then there is a need to understand and keep up to date on what you might be doing to yourself.
My injury happened while I was competing in the final UKPST event of the year a few years ago, it was the quarter finals and I had a stacked three-man heat of Reuben Pearce, Alan Stokes and myself. 5 mins into the heat a found a nice right hander, I started the wave with a round house cutback and as I was coming around to hit the rebound, Reuben was paddling out, so to avoid running him over I had to adjust my line which threw off my set up for the next turn, this happens to everybody at sometime or another and couldnʼt of been helped. Reuben had no way of getting out of my way but because I had to take an awkward line in to the next turn when I hit the lip I had to force my board through the turn, it was all going well and I thought I had it stuck, as I was landing with all my momentum coming down on to my board the white water exploded and pushed my board back up into my feet and I felt a really big pop in my ankle.
As I came up I felt a burning sensation in my ankle and had to
be carried up the beach.
What I did next was where I went wrong, I’d seen a doctor and two different physiotherapist, all of them said it was hard to tell what was wrong without a an x-ray but as I could put weight on it, it was most likely a sprain. I had a ticket booked to Bali in a week so I heard what I wanted to hear, it’s a sprain and in three weeks I will be able to surf. 8 weeks past, by this time I was in New Zealand coaching the British junior team at the world games, I could walk with mild pain and I was trying to surf but my ankle would give me too much pain and sometimes collapse on me. I went and saw the event physio, where I was told to massage it and strap it some more but keep strengthening it. So another month past and now I was in Australia I went to see the physio of the Australian team Tim Brown, with in a couple of minutes I was told of the possible injury I may have and sent to get an MRI and Xray, he sent me to an ankle specialist and I was booked in for surgery.
What had happened, I’d torn all the ligaments in my ankle, if you do that then there is nothing holding your ankle together, if it goes without treatment the two bones in your shin that connect to your ankle drift apart causing a major instability and because I was told to strengthen my ankle while it was injured the whole joint filled with scar tissue. In the end the treatment I had to have was cutting all the scare tissue out and get the two bones that drifted apart screwed back in place. The good news is I recovered back to 100% pretty quickly from the operation and there are no negative long-term effects. My injury is very similar to what Joel Parkinson did a few year back. The difference between his injury and mine is he got proper treatment straight away while I didnʼt, resulting in me needing an operation.
My advice if you do suffer an injury donʼt stuff around, go straight to the TOP specialists, make sure they are someone who understands the sport and has experience with major sporting injuries (ie someone who regular deals with football, rugby or olympic athletes). If you have an ankle or wrist injury you need to get MRIʼs with magnification capabilities (as there is so much small detail in these joints). Even if I did get scans the day of my injury I still believe I would have been missed diagnosed as I only would have seen a normal GP. That’s why I say go straight to the best, spend the money (even better get insurance!) don’t bother wasting your time with the little guys. With the right advice an injury like mine would have taken 3 months till I was 100% instead of 8 months.
Words: Micah Lester
Photos: Jason Feast