Surfing might seem like a fun-loving sport, but its hazards may be surprising.

Doctors usually know turf better than surf, says Jeremy Kuniyoshi, MD, a radiology resident at the University of California at San Diego. “Most doctors know more about riding golf carts than riding waves,” Kuniyoshi, a recreational surfer, says in a news release.

To bring his landlubbing colleagues up to speed, Kuniyoshi and two other researchers recently compiled a list of common surfing injuries. The list is based on radiological images from 135 injured surfers.

Injuries were put into three groups: getting hurt while paddling toward a wave, trying unsuccessfully to catch a wave, or riding a wave. Failing to catch a wave netted 26 injuries, more than paddling or riding waves.

Surfing injuries included dislocated shoulders, skull and facial fractures from hitting the board, head and neck trauma, broken arms and legs, and knee damage.

The ocean also has its dangers. Cold water can hurt the ear canals, foreign matter could enter the lungs, and ocean critters may greet surfers with stings and bites.

Some of those injuries might look unusual. For instance, hitting the water could cause damage without inflicting scrapes and cuts.

Health care providers who understand common surfing accidents can do a better job of treating surfers, says Kuniyoshi in the news release.

He and his colleagues presented their study in Chicago at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting.

By Miranda Hitti, and reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: Radiological Society of North America 90th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, Chicago, Nov. 28-Dec.3, 2004. News release, Radiological Society of North America.