If there’s one thing that keeps many people from hitting the water to wakeboard every season, it would be the common wakeboarding injuries associated with this sport. In fact, a 2018 study has shown that water sports cause more in-hospital mortality that motor vehicle collisions.
That said, summer is no fun without wakeboarding, which is why you need to know about the most common wakeboarding injuries and how to prevent them. Yes, these injuries can be prevented, so don’t throw in the towel just yet. That way, your time in the sea will not only be fun, but it will also be safe. What else could you ask for?
In short, the five most common wakeboarding injuries are lacerations, concussions, ankle sprains, leg fractures, and shoulder dislocations. Let’s delve into more details now, shall we?
Who Can Get Injured While Wakeboarding?
As opposed to what most people believe, getting injured while wakeboarding is not a privilege for inexperienced participants. No matter your level of expertise in this sport, you’re prone to injury if you’re not careful, so make sure to understand how to prevent getting hurt while you’re riding your board. Of course, the more skilled you are, the better and safer your experience is going to be.
Risk factors for common wakeboarding injuries include:
- Level of experience: novice wakeboarders are injured more frequently during takeoff, while advanced participants are most likely to get injured from falling. Wakeboarder education plays a major role, as well.
- Environment and weather conditions, which is why you need to plan your wakeboarding session before hitting the road.
- Protective gear, or, more precisely, the lack of it.
5 Most Common Wakeboarding Injuries
Basically, any part of the body is prone to injury while one is wakeboarding, including the head and face, arms, back, trunk, and legs. A study has shown that 25% of wakeboarding injuries are lacerations, 11% are concussions, 10% are ankle sprains, 5% are leg fractures, and 5% are shoulder dislocations. If those terms sound vague and complicated, worry not, as we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of every one of them.
In Layman’s terms, a laceration is a tearing of the skin that results in an irregular wound. In wakeboarding, lacerations are more often than not caused by a direct impact, though they may result from an injury with a sharp object.
Although lacerations cause minimal injury and are associated with a minimal chance of infection in normal circumstances, lacerations caused by direct impact when wakeboarding can be severe and are often accompanied by significant bleeding and pain.
Fortunately, lacerations are easy to diagnose (and treat as well). That’s mainly because they happen all the time. Common symptoms of this condition include:
- Local pain, as the skin is abraded, cut, or torn off.
- Fainting, which can be caused by the loss of blood or the sight of the cut itself.
- Bruising, as the blood vessels and soft tissues of the area are broken because of the trauma.
- Swelling, which is a result of inflammation, a process caused by either the friction or the trauma.
- Bleeding, which is a result of the tear of the skin, and which can be minimal or profuse, depending on the location of the laceration.
Lacerations must be treated promptly to reduce the risk of excessive scar formation as well as infection. The first step of the treatment process is hemostasis, which is the termination of bleeding. That can be done by applying continuous manual pressure on the area of injury with sterile gauze.
Once the bleeding stops, the laceration must be further explored by a healthcare professional to evaluate the damage and involvement of the bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
A concussion is basically an injury to the brain that can alter normal neural functions. Concussions usually occur after either an impact to the head or a whiplash-type injury that causes the head and brain to shake quickly back and forth.
Although concussions can follow any kind of accident, it’s more common in people who practice sports, especially impact ones, such as football or boxing. Wakeboarders aren’t immune to this kind of injury, of course, which is why you need to recognize the symptoms and know how to prevent it.
Unlike lacerations, concussions might be hard to recognize at first. Even one of the following symptoms can be indicative of a concussion, and the severity of the injury is correlated to the severity of the symptoms.
- Memory problems
- Drowsiness and dizziness
- Unequal pupil size
- Unreactive pupils
- Blurry vision or double vision
- Speech difficulties
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems
As you may have noticed, those symptoms are direct results of abnormalities in normal neural functions, which is why they must be treated promptly before any permanent damage takes place.
Please note that the symptoms of a concussion may appear immediately or develop over several hours, days, weeks, or months following the injury. It’s important to be able to recognize one’s symptoms and know whether or not they’re getting worse over time.
Most concussions aren’t severe enough to require surgery or major medical treatment. In most cases, your doctor will recommend physical and mental rest for you to recover from a concussion. In other words, you’ll have to avoid activities that may increase any of your symptoms, such as physical exertion, vigorous movements, and, unfortunately, wakeboarding.
Mental rest is equally important, so you’ll also have to avoid activities that require thinking and concentration, such as playing video games, doing schoolwork, using a computer, and even texting. Of course, what activities you’ll have to avoid will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your doctor’s recommendation.
3. Ankle Sprains
An ankle sprain is an injury that affects the ligaments that connect the bones of the lower leg to those of the foot. A ligament is a band of dense connective tissue that’s made of long collagenous fibers. Ligaments are what connect your bones together in joints, thus keeping everything in place.
Ankle sprains happen when you twist your ankle in an awkward way, which isn’t that uncommon in wakeboarding. When that happens, the ligaments that connect your ankle bones can get stretched or torn out. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are the most prone to be affected when an ankle gets sprained.
Ankle sprains aren’t that hard to recognize and diagnose. If you notice the following symptoms in the ankle, you may have sprained it while wakeboarding:
- Skin discoloration
Should you notice some of the above symptoms, make sure to consult your doctor as soon as possible so that they can find out what kind of injury your ankle has sustained and what treatment you need to recover.
Ankle sprains can be mild or severe. Depending on how bad you’ve hurt your ankle, you may be able to treat the sprain at home, or you may need to have surgery, which is rare for this kind of injury.
The first thing that you need to do is to apply some ice to the injured area as soon as possible in order to reduce swelling. On the first day, you ought to apply ice every 30 minutes or so, three to four times per day. For the following couple of days, apply ice every three hours or so.
There are several home care treatments that are recommended by healthcare professionals, which include:
- Elevating your foot with pillows to reduce swelling.
- Using elastic bandages, crutches, and braces.
- Taking pain killers to manage pain
- Resting, resting, resting!
Rest is essential following an ankle sprain, especially a severe one, which may take several weeks to heal. Activities that put much pressure on the ankle, such as wakeboarding and other water sports, must be avoided until your doctor gives you the green colors to resume them.
4. Leg Fractures
A leg fracture is either a break or a crack in one of the various bones that support your leg. The leg contains four bones that can break after a wakeboarding accident, which are:
- The thigh bone or femur, which is the longest and strongest bone in the body.
- The kneecap or patella, which is a small bone that’s located just in front of the knee.
- The shinbone or tibia, which is the major weight-bearing bone in your lower leg.
- The fibula, which runs just alongside your tibia.
The femur is pretty hard to break, which explains why tibia and fibula fractures are more common. And given the fact that they run side by side, it’s easy to understand why these bones may break together sometimes.
A leg fracture can be either closed or open. When a broken bone is exposed to the outside, it’s called an open fracture, and it’s more dangerous as it’s prone to infection.
Three major symptoms indicate a fracture in your leg, which are:
- Pain, which is typically severe and increases when the broken bone is moved.
- Swelling and bruising, which are the result of inflammation.
- Deformity, in the form of shortening, rotation, or angulation of the leg.
Although a fracture’s symptoms may be obvious, only an X-Ray can confirm the diagnosis, which is why you need to see your doctor as soon as you suspect that your leg has been broken.
If you sustain an accident and you suspect that your leg has been broken, there are some self-care tips that you need to follow at the location of the accident before getting transferred to a hospital, which are:
- Rest and immobilize the leg.
- Apply ice to the injured area and try to keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling.
- DO NOT DRINK OR EAT ANYTHING before seeing a doctor, as you may need to have surgery, for which you need to fast for at least six hours beforehand.
Once you get transferred to a medical environment, your doctor will perform a procedure called reduction, in which the bone gets put back into place. After that, proper treatment will be determined by your doctor according to the severity of the fracture.
5. Shoulder Dislocation
Shoulder dislocations take the last place among the five most common wakeboarding injuries when it comes to the frequency, though they’re as serious as the rest. Simply put, a shoulder dislocation is when the top of the arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket following a direct impact or another kind of accident.
Given the great mobility of the shoulder joint, it’s inherently unstable, which is why it’s prone to slipping out of place. Such an injury doesn’t affect only the bones, though, as the surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels can be damaged as well.
A dislocated shoulder is easy to recognize, as it’s usually accompanied with:
- Severe pain in both the shoulder and upper arm, making it hard or even impossible to move the arm.
- Deformation, with a bump in either the front or the back of the shoulder. It’s usually hard to miss.
- Swelling and bruising, which are caused by the inflammation.
Although Hollywood movies may make it seem like a dislocated shoulder is nothing to worry about, this injury can actually be really severe, and it must be treated right away. The longer your upper arm bone remains out of the shoulder socket, the more swollen and painful the joint becomes.
Once you see your doctor, they’ll put the bone back into place, which should reduce the pain. After that, conservative treatment can be used to decrease pain and swelling, which include:
- Apply ice to your shoulder. On the first day, you ought to apply ice every 30 minutes or so, three to four times per day. For the following couple of days, apply ice every three hours or so.
- Consult your doctor and use a shoulder immobilizer to prevent further injury as you wait for medical treatment.
- Take pain-killers that are prescribed by your doctor to keep the pain at bay.
Should you visit a healthcare professional quickly and follow the above treatment guidelines, no injury will be needed in most cases.
How to Prevent Wakeboarding Injuries
There are several guidelines that you can follow to prevent common wakeboarding injuries, which include:
Learn the Basics of Wakeboarding
If you’ve never practiced wakeboarding before, you ought to take some lessons at a reputable school or from a well-known coach. There, you’ll get an idea about safety precautions as well as proper technique. You’ll also learn how to assess weather and water conditions to know when you can head to the water.
Strength and Neuromuscular Training
Conditioning is an integral part of any sport. For wakeboarding, a proper conditioning program should address balance, postural control, and stability. Some of the exercises that you can integrate into your workout include:
- Jumping rope and Two-Footed Step Jumps, which help with coordination, cardio, and injury prevention.
- Pull-Ups and hanging Leg-Ups, which can improve your grip’s strength and toughen your hands if they are soft.
- Tandem squats and tandem deadlifts, both of which improve balance.
- Core-strengthening exercises, such as Standard Box Jump, Single-Leg Box Jump, Chin-Ups, and Pole or Rope Climbing.
- Torso rotations as well as planks, which are essential to tone your trunk muscles.
Use Proper Gear
Before engaging in a wakeboarding activity, you need to make sure that you have all the equipment you need and that it’s in good working condition. That starts with the wakeboard, which should be appropriate for your weight and body shape.
Protective gear is equally important, which includes:
- Wet or Dry Suit, which decreases the risk of lacerations, cuts, abrasions, and contusions.
- Lifejacket, which can save your life if you become fatigued.
- Helmet, which is essential to avoid head injury, especially concussions.
General Tips to Prevent Wakeboarding Injuries
There are some general tips that you can follow to prevent common wakeboarding injuries while practicing this activity or any other water sport, which include:
- Know your limits: wakeboarding requires practice to master, so take it slowly and increase the intensity as you get better. Also, avoid wakeboarding if you’re pregnant.
- Stretch: stretching is essential before taking the plunge as it increases one’s range of motion and reduces the risk of injury and muscle strains.
- Stay hydrated: dehydration is not just about feeling thirsty, as it can lead to muscle cramping, strains, and tears, which is why you ought to consume a combination of electrolyte beverages and water before getting on the boat.
- Take breaks from time to time: if you feel tired or your muscles start cramping while you’re wakeboarding, just take a break and allow your body to recover. That will go a long way in preventing injuries in the long run.
- Be vigilant: getting a good deal of sleep is essential before heading to the water, as you need to be alert and vigilant when wakeboarding. According to Active and Safe, getting less than eight hours of sleep can increase the risk of injury by up to 70%.
Common wakeboarding injuries aren’t really serious most of the time, but some of them can put one’s life at risk, which is why you need to take the aforementioned precautions while practicing this sport.
- How far apart should your feet be on a wakeboard? Your feet should be your shoulder-width apart.
- How do I get in shape for wakeboarding? To get in shape for wakeboarding, you need to add several core-, back-, trunk-, and arm-strengthening exercises to your workout routine several months before the season. These exercises include the ones we mentioned above.
- My own experience!