Surf Life Saving & Common Injuries

With the Life Saving Victoria competition season kicking off next month, we thought we’d share some of the latest information on injury prevention in a sport where the demands on the body are quite unique…

SLS final


The University of New South Wales conducted a research report in 2012 to describe the epidemiology of competition and training-based surf sport-related injury in Australia.

So, what did this report tell us?

  • There were 2,645 surf sport-related competition or training-related incidents
  • Older individuals experienced a higher proportion of injuries during training than younger
  • Inflatable rescue boats (IRB), beach flags, and surf boats were the most common activities inducing injury…


Injury Type – sprains (16.0%), strains (15.3%), bruising/contusion (12.4%), inflammation/swelling (12.3%), fractures (10.3%), and dislocations (10.1%)

One study found that IRB foot straps are directly related to the incidence of foot and ankle injuries (often lisfranc fracture dislocations of the midfoot and ankle fracture variants). 86% of injuries sustained are to the crew-person, not the driver.


Injury Type – fractures (19.9%), sprains (16.5%), strains (14.6%), inflammation/swelling (14.2%) and bruising/contusions (13.1%)


Injury Type – bruising/contusions (25.3%), open wounds/lacerations/cuts (19.1%) and inflammation/swelling (13.2%)


The type of activity, nature of injury, contributing factors, and initial treatment administered are broken down below…
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A large proportion of injuries reported in the database are the result of trauma such as the impact forces of waves on the boat, lower limb injuries the result of torsional forces within foot straps, being thrown from the boat or dismounting incorrectly, and boat/person to person collisions.

There appears to be a distinct lack of incident reporting and evidence when it comes to musculoskeletal complaints within surf lifesaving, considering the heavy training load and repetitive nature of many events.

We can however make comparisons to similar sports such as flat water rowing, kayaking, swimming and surfing…
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