A major prospective study on surfing related eye injuries has documented seven cases of eye injury caused by surf-boards in New South Wales in a year.
All patients were male – aged from nine to 44 – with injuries ranging from eyelid lacerations, through to eye socket fractures, eye rupture and loss of the eye. One patient was left with fibreglass fragments in the eye socket.
The 12-month study was launched in December 2010 under the auspices of the Save Sight Institute, with the aim of gathering evidence about the number and type of eye injuries caused by surfboard accidents.
The study was led by Sydney Eye Hospital oculoplastic surgeon and passionate surfer, Dr. Raf Ghabrial, who had noticed an “inordinate amount” of eye injuries caused by surf boards – both at the beach and at
the eye hospital.
The injuries described range in severity from eyelid lacerations through eye socket fractures to eye rupture and loss of the eye. One patient had fibreglass foreign bodies retained in the eye socket
Some of the most gruesome injuries in surfing have been caused by the pointy nose of a surfboard or fin contacting either the body or the head. The most notorious cases include that of Aussie pro surfer Derek Hynd, who was finned in the right cheekbone and eye while competing in South Africa. He lost his eye but, amazingly, he managed to improve his world ranking the following year, surfing one-eyed.
In 2004, champion surfer Serena Brook almost lost her eye in a freak accident during practice for a Western Australian event. Oculoplastic surgeons managed to save her sight, even though her upper and lower eyelids were sliced through, and her tear duct was ripped.
The results of the Save Sight Institute study have not yet been published. Preliminary results note that most surfers wear leg ropes for their own convenience but this means that most surfing injuries are caused by a surfer’s own board.
“However, at present surfboard design in Australia is not subject to government regulation,” the Save Sight Institute notes. “Helmets and protective eyewear designed for water sports is available and may prevent eye injury during surfing but is not popular among surfers.”
The incidence of surfboard-related eye injuries (SREIs) in NSW and Australia had not previously been established and preliminary results from the study note that this may be because other sports – including squash, football and tennis – more commonly cause eye injuries.
“However … ocular trauma due to surfboards can be severe with long-term effects… on otherwise fit young men and women.”
The study team said it was aware of seven surf-related eye injuries occurring in New South Wales between December 2010 and December 2011, and it had received completed questionnaires about the injuries from four of the victims.
“The injuries described range in severity from eyelid lacerations through eye socket fractures to eye rupture and loss of the eye. One patient had fibreglass foreign bodies retained in the eye socket.”
The team still hopes to hear from surfers who received eye injuries during the study period.
For further information or to report a surfing eye injury, contact the study co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.