Ways to Avoid Surfing Injuries

How to avoid surfing injuries and common ailments:

* Cuts--The most common injuries surfers suffer when they tumble into the waves can be revented by sanding down the sharp edges of the surfboard fins and by adding a rubber tip to the nose of the board.

* Severe sunburn and skin cancer--Surfers should use waterproof sunscreens with high levels of protection against ultraviolet rays.

* Surfer's ear--A wet suit hood or ear plugs can help surfers prevent this condition, in which the ear closes up with bony growth, caused by cold wind and water. The alternative is not pleasant; treatment is painful and involves drilling out the ear if it plugs up entirely.

* Eye problems (pterygia)--Wearing sunglasses on the beach and goggles in the water will reduce the risk of developing this ailment, which involves the white portion of the eye growing over the cornea because of overexposure to wind and salt water. Common among surfers, this ailment also is seen among sailors.

* Surfer's knots or knobbies--These growths of extra skin on the knees and other bony places that rub against the surfboard can be prevented by shifting paddling positions on long boards. Knobbies have become less prevalent since the popularity of short boards, which are paddled in a prone position--although that can lead to rib knobbies.

* Spinal injuries--Rare but potentially disastrous, spinal injuries can be largely prevented by placing hands over heads when surfers are knocked head first into the water so that their limbs absorb the shock if they hit the ocean bottom. The Wipeout Program at Hoag Hospital recommends that beach-goers never dive head first into the water.

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