Preventing Shoulder Injury While Surfing

by Josh Strong, Personal Trainer at Santa Cruz CORE Fitness and Rehab

Joshua Strong, Personal Trainer and Surfer

Joshua Strong, Personal Trainer and Surfer

As with all adventure sports, injury is often inescapable in surfing. However, there are precautions that can be taken to avoid an injury that will slow you down.

The most common injury in surfing, although often not embraced as an injury of importance, is injury to the head. Although injuries to the head are the most common injuries that occur in surfing, injuries to the other parts of the body also occur in significance.

A part of the body that has the potential to become injured, in most surfers, is the shoulder complex. Due to the nature of surfing the upper body is the most used part of the body in a typical surf session. This can cause injuries to the shoulder occur because of overuse and incorrect body mechanics.

The shoulder complex is very… well, complex. There are many things going on in the shoulder to keep everything lined up, balanced and functioning correctly. If a muscle is under activated and another is over compensating for it, issues may arise over time in anyone; from the competitive surfing athlete to the weekend warrior.

A specific issue in the shoulder that has the potential to occur is subacromial impingement. This impingement occurs may occur because of two reasons in particular.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Bischoff

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Bischoff

One reason for impingement and related pain may be because of a bony outgrowth in the shoulder. This outgrowth often times occurs on the acromion process and irritates the bursa within the shoulder complex or the supraspinatus muscle (which is very important with overhead motions such as paddling). If a bony outgrowth is the case surgery may be the only way to cease long-term impingement and related pain.

The other form of subacromial impingement is due to a narrowing of the space in the shoulder complex. There are many muscles involved in the shoulder complex so there may be many different muscles out of balance causing the narrowing of the opening for the supraspinatus muscle. With this second form of subacromial impingement, it is possible to correct through non-invasive methods. Most often surfers may have tight latissimus dorsi and pectoralis muscles and weak middle and low back musculature.

To combat these issues there are some exercises and muscle release techniques that may be beneficial to many people who present with the most common muscular imbalances.

First release the hypertonic muscles that are overcompensating:

  • Pectoralis release with foam roller, foam ball, or massage
  • Latissimus release with foam roller or massage
  • Upper trapezius release with Theracane bar or massage

Second, Strengthen the weak opposing muscles with these exercises:

  • Wall Angels (Back flat against the wall, knees slightly bent, palms forward so the back of your hands touch the wall. Keep your spine and head in contact with the wall while slowly raising and lowering your arms, making sure to also keep your arms and hands in contact with the wall).
  • Y-raises (Lie facedown over a medicine ball, turn your thumbs up and keep your arms in a Y position, then slowly lower and raise your arms with your spine flat and your head looking at the ground below you. Don’t bend your elbows)
  • Abdominal crunches with feet elevated and with feet touching the ground (When your feet touch the ground drive your heels into the ground to make sure that your hip flexors don’t take over with for your core.

Interested in Training w/ Josh? Call 831-425-9500 to book a Complimentary Consultation.


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