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Injury Prevention (Surfer’s Shoulder) by South Coast Physio & Pilates

We never plan to get injured but WE CAN plan to minimise the risk of injury.


A good basic fitness level is crucial for avoiding injury. Both traumatic and overload injuries are more frequent among athletes with poor, rather than with good basic fitness.

Everyone dreams of catching the perfect wave and considers what they will do once riding a wave, but how often do we think and prepare for the paddle out?

We often hear some surfers say they are going out for paddle fitness, and although this is not unhelpful there are more efficient ways, as the repetitive movement of paddling can increase our risk of an overuse injury. Cross training is essential to any sport for injury prevention and recovery.



During paddling your shoulder goes through two phases: the ‘propulsion’ and ‘recovery’ phase, each phase relies on different muscle groups. We are often very dominant in our pectoral, latissimus dorsi, triceps and subscapularis muscles that are the driving factor in the propulsion phase. The problem often arises in the recover phase, as we are lifting the arm out of the water.

Our external rotators (3 of the 4 rotator cuff muscles) are activated in this stage which are often weaker and therefore have to work harder to counter act the strength of the dominant muscles pulling the shoulder forward, creating a muscle imbalance which often leads to “surfer’s shoulder”. This is easily corrected with effective exercises to activate the weaker muscles and allow lengthening within the dominating muscles.

During paddle out not only is there a high demand on your shoulders but also your neck. Keeping it in an sustained extended position can cause neck pain. The muscles in the back of the neck, upper back, and lower back are in constant contraction, causing tension and muscular shortening of the trapezius and other neck muscles. It is important to learn to engage the whole upper spine when extending the neck not just the cervical spine, ensure mobility through the thoracic (mid) spine. Muscles need to have the right combination of flexibility, strength and co-ordination.

Check out our collaboration video with @southcoastphysiopilates which incorporates a Physio Pilates focus to your paddle movement preparation, to support longer surf sessions.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocoJz9uQi1U&t=31s


Created in collaboration with Flowsurfco

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