Top 5 SUP Injuries and How to Prevent Them

It’s well known that SUPs (standup paddle boards) are one of the best ways to get outside and get a good outdoor workout in while enjoying sightseeing and adventures. Compared to other forms of cardio like running and cycling, SUPing is incredibly low impact for your lower body. Additionally, in comparison to the risk that weightlifters take on when lifting heavy weights, SUPing offers little to no risk for major acute tears. This makes it one of the safest forms of full body workouts!


But SUPing does come with some risk. Whether the injuries are from overuse issues that form over a long period of time or they happen as a result of an acute incident, you still need to acknowledge the risks that come with SUPing and mitigate them to prevent getting hurt. The top 5 most common SUP injuries include:


  1. Shoulder tears
  2. Lower back pain
  3. Ankle sprains
  4. Head lacerations
  5. Drowning


By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how to identify and prevent these injuries so that you can SUP for years and years to come.


  1. Shoulder Tears


The most common injury that people who go standup paddle boarding face is shoulder tears. Our shoulders are held together by several tendons as well as cartilage that can get torn if they are either:


  • Overused
  • Move quickly when you fall


Overuse is the most common mechanism of injury when it comes to shoulder injuries. These sorts of injuries usually occur when someone is training for endurance and doesn’t take enough time to recover in between training sessions.


The best way to deal with an overuse injury is to take some time off from SUPing. You can still get a good workout in by cross training using an elliptical machine for cardio and by lifting light weights in the weight room. That way you won’t end up losing out on any progress you’ve made. Although it may noy be as fun.


Falling does account for a small portion of SUP injuries, especially in beginners. Beginners have a difficult time balancing on the board and if they fall where it’s shallow, they can easily land hard enough on their shoulders causing an injury to the shoulder.


The best way to prevent this sort of injury is to ensure that you’re practicing standing up on the board in deeper water. Even if you need to paddle your board away from shore while sitting or lying down on the board, it’s always a good idea to practice where you have the least chance of hitting the bottom when you fall off.


  1. Lower Back Pain


Following shoulder injuries, lower back pain is a pretty common SUP injury. The main reason that people experience lower back pain is due to their stance on the board as they paddle. People that experience lower back pain often are bending over too much from the waist as they reach forward to get another paddle stroke in. Over time, this position can put a lot of strain on your back.


To prevent lower back pain, make sure that you’re leaning forward at your ankles rather than at your waist. By doing this, you’ll incorporate more of your legs in your paddle strokes and give more support to your back.


In addition to changing your stance, it’s important to strengthen your core muscles to prevent lower back pain. By doing abdominal exercises like crunches and leg lifts, you’ll get stronger core muscles. These muscles will help support your back as well as make your paddling much more efficient since you’ll brace your core for each stroke and save your back from doing all of the work.


  1. Ankle Sprains


One of the riskiest places for injuries is actually not even in the water at all. It’s on the shore! The main reason why is that as you are moving your board to the water, you’re carrying a lot of weight on one side of your body, leaving you off balance. Loose rocks, gravel, or uneven terrain can cause you to lose your balance and potentially sprain your ankle.


The key to preventing ankle sprains while carrying your board to the water is to go slowly. If you can, try to enlist the help of your paddling partner to assist you in carrying your board down to the water’s edge. By dividing up the work, you’ll stay balanced and keep your footing much easier than if you transported your board by yourself.


  1. Head Lacerations


The most common times that people experience head lacerations while SUPing is when they accidentally get hit in the head by someone else’s paddle. These injuries usually occur when someone is being careless with where they are moving their paddle blade and knocks their partner in the head with the blade. While uncommon, these injuries can be pretty nasty, so it’s best to try to avoid them as much as possible.


The best way to prevent head lacerations is to give people plenty of space while on the water. If you can reach out and touch someone with your paddle, you’re too close! It’s also important that you maintain positive control of your paddle at all times. Try to keep the blade low and close to the water. And if you lose your balance and feel your blade coming up, try to drop the paddle so that you don’t accidently whack your partner in the head!


  1. Drowning


One of the worst things that can happen while SUPing is to experience drowning. The only thing scarier than drowning yourself is to watch someone else drown. Drowning is very uncommon when SUPing when you take the right precautions.


The first thing that you should put on when you get to the water is your personal flotation device (PFD). Get one that is comfortable and wear it every time you go out. No matter how good of a swimmer you are, wearing a PFD will ensure that you safeguard yourself against drowning.


If you’re SUPing in a river, it’s also important to wear a helmet in addition to a PFD. Rivers are notorious for having rocks hidden just below the surface. If you fall off your board while going through rapids, you can easily hit your head and knock yourself out if you’re not wearing a helmet. If you can’t swim because you’re unconscious, you’ll likely experience a drowning event. So prevent this from happening by always wearing a helmet if you SUP in the river!


Final Thoughts


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This proverb rings true in many health-related fields and is exceptionally true when it comes to SUPing. While SUPing is a very safe activity when compared to other water sports and exercise routines, it still carries some risk. But when you are considerate of yourself, your partners, and the environment, you will be able to SUP time and time again without injury. Stay safe and SUP on!

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