Water sports can be an adrenaline pumping thrill ride, perfect for those long hot summer days. Whether you choose to surf, ski, wakeboard or kayak, there are a whole host of sports you can do on the water to get your heart pumping.
However, as with most sports, each activity comes attached with its various risks in terms of health and safety. Water can be a cruel mistress when overlooked so it’s important to appreciate the risks going in and learn how to safeguard yourself from injury when out at sea.
From common foot problems like athlete’s foot to painful neck injuries like whiplash, here are some of the most common injuries associated with each of the main water sports, and useful advice on how to prevent them.
Surfing can be both great fun and incredibly dangerous. Since you are taking on the sea’s powerful waves at a relatively high speed, these can make you easily lose balance. When this happens, you tend to hit the water pretty hard which can cause a wide range of issues. Bruising, concussions and even shoulder dislocations are all pretty common surf-related injuries, depending on the area of the body you hit.
If you fall on your surfboard at the wrong angle, you could also suffer from eye injuries and head/face lacerations. Plus, since surfing depends on having a sturdy centre of gravity, this places an extra reliance on your knees, making knee injuries another fairly common issue as well.
To guard against these injuries, it’s important to protect yourself. You can do this by investing in safety equipment, such as helmets, inflatable life-vests and protective eyewear, and by ensuring you use your common sense while out on the water. Don’t try and tackle waves you know are out of your surfing ability – you will only end up hurting yourself and making yourself look foolish.
Since water skiing requires your feet to be bound to the skis, the most commonly reported injuries tend to be ankle-related. Depending on the speed in which you’re travelling, and the direction in which you fall when you lose your balance, this places a lot of pressure on your ankles to move in one direction while your body moves in another. Ankle sprains, ankle fractures, osteochondral lesions of the talus and Achille tendon ruptures are some of the most serious injuries you can suffer as a result.
In a similar way to surfing, since you are hitting the water and potentially your skis at a high speed, lacerations, deep cuts, bruising and concussions are all common injuries to encounter. Prevention again relies on being sensible on the water, and following safety guidelines where required. Don’t travel at speeds you can’t handle, and watch out for windy conditions. Also, try and improve your ankle strength through other forms of exercise, and by stretching them out before putting the skis on.
Kayaking & Rafting
Kayaking/rafting at sea or in the river can be an incredibly adrenaline-pumping activity. However, depending on the conditions you come up against (i.e. class 3 – 5 rapids), your body is likely to take one heck of a beating. Dealing with these conditions requires incredible concentration, stamina and a degree of upper-body strength, and it can be very easy to make mistakes.
In the event of a capsize, and depending on the severity of the circumstances you find yourself in, coming up against rocks and your own equipment could leave you with severe cuts and bruises. Likewise, when you hit a rock or rapid at high speed, you could develop a head or neck injury like whiplash or concussion, which would require immediate medical attention to get out of danger.
In order to prevent yourself from harm, wearing a helmet is highly recommended, as is using safety equipment such as life vests, protective clothing and sport sandals. However, be wary when using sport sandals as the fungal condition athlete’s foot thrives in damp climates. Make sure you dry yourself thoroughly when you’re done on the water to minimise your risk.
Water sports can be incredibly fun but don’t overlook how potentially dangerous they can be as well. Use your common sense when you’re on the water and invest in effective safety equipment before you set out.
Also, make sure you know your own boundaries and don’t do anything out of your ability or comfort zone. The sea can be a cruel mistress when taken for granted so, if you don’t appreciate the risks beforehand, you could pay a hefty price.