Che Chapman

Surfers at risk if it's pumping

Forget surf rage at Noosa Points when they are pumping. Wild weather alone has been blamed for an increase in the number of surfing and beach-related accidents on the Sunshine Coast.

Director of Emergency Medicine at Nambour General Hospital, Dr Stephen Priestley said the department had seen a few surf-related injuries each week.

“There is a noticeable increase when the surf is up after a period of flat conditions,” he said.

“We see anything from minor cuts and abrasions through to major injuries.

“Gashes and eye injuries from board fins, facial fractures from boards hitting the surfer, broken necks and near-drownings.

“Shoulder dislocations are also quite common, either from the force of the wave or hitting the seafloor, and older people are probably more at risk of injury.”

Dr Priestley said when the swell was up there were a lot more people out in the water, less room and therefore they put themselves at risk.

“Surfers tend to go closer to the rocks, jostling for position to try and catch a wave,” he said.

“That’s not a good idea, and naturally there’s also the greater risk of getting hit by another surfer when the waves are crowded.”

Dr Priestley said professional surfing lessons, including safety tips, were recommended for anyone considering taking up the sport.

He also recommended all board riders, regardless of their ability, surfed where lifesavers were nearby.

“There’s a lot of force in breaking surf and I am aware of cases where people have been dumped, have broken their neck, become paralysed and have drowned,” he said.

“Anyone in the water, whether surfing or swimming, must be aware of surf safety.

“And if you’re swimming, please swim between the flags.”

In Queensland, about 90 spinal cord injuries are sustained every year. On average, that’s one person every four days who has had their life turned upside down.

In Queensland, the majority of traumatic spinal cord injuries are typically sustained as a result of road trauma, followed by falls or crushes and water accidents.

The current cost of providing basic support for a person who has sustained a spinal cord injury at age 20 and who has a life expectancy to age 70 is about $1,057,000.

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