New research shows health concerns for surfers

10 Mar

Emma wk 8.pngBy Emma Senior, Bond University Journalism Student

Researchers are concerned that surfing may cause increased bone deterioration, prompting them to offer surfers free health checks at the Bond University Institute of Health and Sport.

The research project seeks to determine whether surfing leads to negative effects on the body’s bone composition in older age, and if so, whether there are preventative measures that can be recommended to reduce future risks.

“Surfers spend about 95 per cent of a surf session in a weight supported environment either paddling or sitting on the board, opposed to only two to eight per cent of their time actually surfing a wave.

“So, there is the possibility that they do not encounter much stimulus to the bones and muscles, suggesting an imbalance between bone reabsorption and bone productivity, possibly causing negative side effects on bone development,” said Dr Vini Simas (MD) of Bond University’s Water-Based Research Unit.

Dr Simas said that pilot studies suggest surfing is good for the upper body but not the hips; however, the study saw a small sample size and not all variables were controlled, so this project aims to extend the pilot.

Regardless of the results of the project, it seems surfers both young and old will not be deterred by potential health threats.

Managing director of Lost Surfboards Australia David Tarantini, who has been surfing four to five times a week for 43 years, said he was initially “intrigued” by the project, but it would not stop him from surfing.

“Surfing is a very important part of my life, both professionally and personally,” Mr Tarantini said.

“I’ve been in the industry for most of my life, and identify strongly as a surfer.”

Harry Ganis, 18, said that he loves the relaxation surfing brings so does it whenever he can and wouldn’t give it up, regardless of the project’s results.

Participants of the project are asked to complete two surveys and a body (DEXA) scan, expected to take about one-hour total.

Dr Simas is also conducting a second study that investigates exostoses, otherwise known as ‘surfer’s ear’, which, according to a Victorian study, affects 87 per cent of male surfers and 69 per cent of female surfers.

This study calls for males and females aged 18-75 who have at least five years of surfing experience and surf at least five sessions a month.

Dr Simas said that although most cases are not serious, some are severe causing hearing impairments that sometimes require operation on the inner ear’s bone.

The health check, which offers free results to both the participants and their GPs, involves a short survey of participants’ surfing involvement, followed by a standard otoscope.

Dr Simas hopes that the study will allow surfers to keep doing what they love for longer.

“The ultimate goal of the studies it to keep people surfing, however in a healthy way,” he said.

To get involved or obtain more information about the study, contact Dr Simas at vpsimas@gmail.com or phone 0405 617 133.

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