New research out of the University of British Columbia suggests the downplaying of the dangers of concussion affects more than just athletes in contact sports, but also those in individual sports – namely, surfing.
“Nobody has really looked at non-contact sports, individual sports and more alternative sports,” said Nikolaus Dean, a PhD student in kinesiology, “despite the fact that there are epidemiology studies suggesting that concussion is occurring at high rates.”
Dean, who suffered his own concussion years earlier while playing lacrosse, interviewed 12 surfers on B.C.’s west coast for his master’s thesis, and found they trivialized the severity of the injury and accepted the risks of surfing while hurt.
“It’s really interesting when you think about that, because surfers don’t have teammates or coaches who may be pressuring them to play through injuries.”
He said they ignore a potential injury because they only have a short time out to surf, they’re out surfing with friends, or wave conditions.
Head injuries are the second most common injury among surfers after lacerations, according to Dean’s research, and occur at a rate “on par” with mainstream sports. Concussions make up anywhere from three to 37 per cent of those head injuries.
“Those who hadn’t sustained a sport-related concussion were a little bit unclear on how to properly diagnose, manage and treat them,” said Dean.
In May 2018, Surf Canada introduced a concussion protocol to help athletes recognize and manage the injury.
“I hope more attention is given to it in the future,” Dean said. “I think this topic will only grow due to the mainstreaming of the sport, with it moving into the Olympics and becoming an international sport.”
The Surf Canada Nationals and Olympic trials are scheduled to be held in Tofino from May 10-15.