Windsurfing

01 Overview

Windsurfing has been gaining popularity at both the recreational and competitive levels. This water sport combines components of surfing and sailing—windsurfers manipulate a sail to move along the water while standing on a board. Windsurfing has been a Summer Olympic sport since 1984 for men, and 1992 for women. Common injuries in windsurfers occur to the head and neck, shoulder, trunk, toes, feet, and exposed skin.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Shoulder dislocation and muscle sprain or strain are common injuries in windsurfing.

Collision with equipment or the ocean floor, riverbed or lakebed can result in blows to the head. Competitive windsurfers are more likely to sustain a concussion as compared to recreational windsurfers.

Chronic low back pain affects windsurfers due to the prolonged periods of time spent leaning to counter the pull of the sail in the wind (prolonged static muscle contraction).

Rib stress fractures, muscle spasms, and muscle sprains and strains, especially in the chest muscles, are common injuries among windsurfers.

Skin lacerations and contusions to the legs are common injuries in windsurfing.

The footstrap can cause injuries to the toes and feet, including ankle sprains and strains, tendonitis, fractures and ligament damage, and dislocation in the mid to forefoot (Lisfranc dislocations).

Lacerations, jellyfish stings, abrasions, sunburns, contusions, and blisters are common injuries sustained among windsurfers.

02 Injury Statistics

More males participate in windsurfing as compared to females, but injury patterns are similar across sex and age groups.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

View Summary of Incidence Rates

03 Risk Factors

Rough water and wind conditions, damaged equipment, absence of a lifejacket and/or wetsuit, low levels of physical fitness, and lower levels of experience are potential risk factors for injury in windsurfing.

  • Environment

    Inclement weather and water conditions can increase the risk of injury.

  • Footstrap Position and Use

    Using a board with no footstraps can increase your risk of injury. Improper positioning of the footstrap can increase the risk of injury to the ankle or foot, including tendonitis. The feet can become trapped in the footstraps during a fall, resulting in fractures.

  • Level of Experience

    Having a low level of experience is a risk factor for injury, as experience usually coincides with knowledge of safe conditions to engage in the sport.

  • Equipment

    Poorly maintained or damaged equipment can increase the risk of injury.

  • Improper Technique

    Improper technique, such as steering the sail with strength rather than skill, can cause strains to the spine and joints.

  • Fitness Level

    Low fitness level is a risk for injury, as windsurfing requires the body to maintain balance and posture.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in windsurfing.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder, ankle, and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to sailing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in windsurfing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    If you are new to windsurfing, take lessons at a reputable school. Be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. Know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about windsurfing safety.

    The State Government of Victoria (Australia) has information on preventing injuries in windsurfing.

    Equipment
    Ensure that you have equipment that is in good, working condition. Your windsurf board should be of the appropriate volume for your physical condition and skill level.

    Using a board without footstraps can increase your risk of injury. Improper positioning of the footstrap increases the risk of injury. The feet can become trapped in the footstraps during a fall, resulting in fractures, or the leg or ankle can twist when the foot stays stationary. Evidence suggests that the footstrap should be secured at the midfoot (the arch on the top of the foot).

    Sport-related Physicals
    Windsurfing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder, ankle, and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to sailing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in windsurfing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Newcomers to windsurfing should take lessons at a reputable school and be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. They should know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about windsurfing safety.

    The State Government of Victoria (Australia) has information on preventing injuries in windsurfing.

    Equipment
    Ensure that windsurfers have equipment that is in good, working condition. The windsurf board should be of the appropriate volume for their physical condition and skill level.

    Using a board without footstraps can increase the risk of injury. Improper positioning of the footstrap increases the risk of injury. The feet can become trapped in the footstraps during a fall, resulting in fractures, or the leg or ankle can twist when the foot stays stationary. Evidence suggests that the footstrap should be secured at the midfoot (the arch on the top of the foot).

    Sport-related Physicals
    Windsurfing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder, ankle, and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to sailing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in windsurfing, but it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Newcomers to windsurfing should take lessons at a reputable school and be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique. They should know how to assess both water and weather conditions before heading out on the water, and be aware of times for low and high tide if applicable.

    AdventureSmart is a national program providing information to keep you safe while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

    Learn more about windsurfing safety.

    The State Government of Victoria (Australia) has information on preventing injuries in windsurfing.

    Equipment
    Ensure that windsurfers have equipment that is in good, working condition. The windsurf board should be of the appropriate volume for their physical condition and skill level.

    Using a board without footstraps can increase the risk of injury. Improper positioning of the footstrap increases the risk of injury. The feet can become trapped in the footstraps during a fall, resulting in fractures, or the leg or ankle can twist when the foot stays stationary. Evidence suggests that the footstrap should be secured at the midfoot (the arch on the top of the foot).

    Sport-related Physicals
    Windsurfing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing windsurfing injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to participants, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to windsurfing to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder, ankle, and back injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to sailing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions are not the most common injury in windsurfing, so it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Encourage windsurfers to take lessons at a reputable school and be familiar with safety precautions and proper technique.

    Equipment
    Encourage windsurfers to have equipment that is in good, working condition. The windsurf board should be of the appropriate volume for their physical condition and skill level.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Windsurfing can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.