Surfing as safe as running, unless you're a competitor

Royal North Shore Hospital specialist Dr Simon Dimmick studied head and spinal injuries of surfers admitted to the hospital over the past two years.

The research, to be presented this week at a Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiology conference in Sydney, found head and neck damage accounts for about 25-37% of surfing injuries.

Dr Dimmick said more than 50% of all spinal injuries sustained by surfers affected the cervical spine.

Only 10% were thoracic spine fractures and 5% were  fractures of the lumbar vertebrae.

About one quarter of spinal injuries involved bruising to the spinal cord, Dr Dimmick said.

Spinal injuries were mostly caused by contact with the sea floor, while head and facial injuries resulted from being hit with a surfboard, he said.

Two studies involving 28 patients each were carried out at the hospital, which is NSW's main treatment centre for spinal injuries.