Recently, I was asked about the most common injuries in surfing. Working as co-medical director on the ASP Tour for many years, I have certainly witnessed a number of injuries suffered by the world's greatest surfers and have kept records to help build better strategies to prevent or minimize them.

Of course, most injuries are caused by wipeouts (flying boards, coral reef), collisions with other surfers in the water, and the occasional oceanic creature, such as a jellyfish or stingray. Looking at the topic further, I was still curious: How does the list of injuries that the pros suffer stack up against everyday surfers who don't get paid to surf?

One of the greatest benefits of getting to travel with the top surfers in the world is that I get to meet and work with some of the best doctors, therapists and trainers on the planet. So for the topic of common surfing injuries, I contacted one of the most skilled and dedicated surf MDs I know: Dr. Clayton Everline.

Dr. Everline lives in Hawaii and specializes in Ocean Sports Medicine. He is also the author of a great new book for surfers, called "Surf Survival." According to the latest studies referenced in his book, the breakdown of top surf injuries is as follows:

1. Lacerations (cuts)
Face 24%
Feet 20%
Head 17%
Legs 16%
Arms 6%

2. Contusions
Face 30%
Chest 23%
Arms 9%
Legs 8%
Feet 8%

3. Sprains & Strains *(#3-6 are based upon my 25+ years experience treating surfing injuries on tour and in private practice.)
1. Knee
2. Shoulder
*3. Ankle
*4. Back
*5. Neck
*6. Hip

4. Fractures
Face 30%
Chest 23%
Arms 9%
Legs 8%
Feet 8%

Interestingly, the injury statistics for professional surfers compared to the rest of us dedicated watermen/waterwomen are surprisingly close in comparison. This makes sense, considering the nature of surfing, but your daily surf breaks are less controlled than those on the Tour. So it's important to take some small steps to avoid common injuries, which can help prevent life-threatening ones. Remember, the above injuries are the most common, but concussions and other more serious accidents happen every day around the world.

The best method will always be prevention through education and, of course, acting like a good boy/girl scout. Use the buddy system and always be prepared! Know who is around you and what kind of conditions you're dealing with, both above and below the water. One of the most common mistakes for beginner and intermediate-level surfers is getting in over their heads. Taking on big water conditions or surfing aggressively in a unfamiliar spot before you 've taken the time to understand the topography (sand, rock, lava, coral or combo) can spell the difference between enjoying the trip of your life and a trip to the hospital. This classic example of failing to plan and planning to fail earns you the title of 'Kook for a Day' because you put yourself and others at high risk for injury, or worse.

Being prepared includes simple steps, like bringing a small, but specific, waterman's first aid kit in your backpack or car. I recommend the following as a minimum for your kit:
1. Small bottle of peroxide
2. Sterile gauze
3. Medical or athletic tape/stretch bandage
4. Instant ice compress
5. Tube of antibiotic cream
6. Fresh water
7. Energy bars

Additionally, make sure to keep your body conditioned by training for: MOBILITY, so your muscles and joints allow you to move easily in the water; and STABILITY, so your muscles and nervous system can coordinate and protect your joints, while allowing you to move quickly and efficiently with fluidity. Strength provides the power to paddle, pop up and perform maneuvers. Then, of course, there is ENDURANCE. That is the fun one because nothing helps with your endurance in the water more than being in the water.
 (Whether you are surfing, swimming, SUPing, as long as you are working at least 70% of your maximum output, three times a week, your endurance is improving.)

A phrase I use on a daily basis is, "Life is movement and movement is life," and having good body awareness is key. Incorporating training techniques and tools that focus on body posture, positioning and core strength will help keep you at the top of your game, while preventing injury.

Enjoy the water and be safe out there!
Dr. Tim Brown is an Orange County-based sports medicine expert and is co-medical director of the ASP. He has worked with a host of the world's best surfers and athletes. For more, visit