Athletes, not sport, determine risks
A study has found that competitive surfing is safer that soccer and basketball.
WHEN the state Board of Education approved surfing as an official public high school sport, the main concern, predictably and prudently, was the safety of students. School officials put in place standards that some thought were overly strict, including a requirement for at least three coaches to be present in the water or on shore, depending on the number of surfers.
The perception was that the ocean sport most associated with the islands was more dangerous than other athletic activities.
Turns out, it's not, at least according to a study conducted by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School.
The study found that the rate of injury among competitive surfers, both professional and amateur, was far exceeded by the rate in college soccer games and somewhat higher in basketball. Male soccer players counted 19 injuries in 1,000 hours of participation and nine in the same period for basketball players, while just 6.6 significant injuries were computed for surfers.
The caveat, however, was that the risk of injury doubled in big-wave competition or when riding waves over hard ocean bottoms, something surfers would not dispute. The study also found that because there are fewer people in the water during a contest, collisions between bodies and boards were less likely, another point with which surfers would concur.
Among recreational surfers, the most common injuries were cuts and bruises as riders of varying abilities vie for the best waves in a crowded line-up.
The fact is that there are risks in all sports and that participants should keep that in mind to minimize the chance of injuries. On the field or the court or catching bumps at Kewalo, Sunset or Tonggs, sports are only as safe as the people who play make them.
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