Surfers are sustaining eye injuries after being hit with the nose, tail and fins of surfboards, a survey has found.
A study of 10 cases identified in a survey of NSW opthalmologists found eye injuries affected surfers aged from nine to 71 years.
Patients had an average age of 35 years and eight out of the 10 injured surfers were male.
One of the injured surfers was learning to surf at the time while others were weekly or daily surfers.
In one case a surfer’s injury was so severe it resulted in the loss of an eye.
In four cases surfers had fractures to the bones that form the orbit, the bony cavity that contains the eye, while another surfer was left with fibreglass in this area.
Researchers led by the University of Sydney’s Save Sight Institute said most patients had a combination of eye injuries including bruising to the skin and soft tissue around the eye and lacerations to the eyelid.
One eye injury occurred while using a surfboard in a backyard swimming pool, while other injuries occurred at Queens Head and Forster on NSW’s north coast, Shellharbour on the south coast, and Maroubra and Bondi in Sydney’s east.
Five surfers were hit by their own boards, two with someone else’s board and information was not available for three patients.
Authors of the study, published on Sunday in the Medical Journal of Australia, said it confirmed that surfing carried “a small risk of severe ocular injury”.
They said injuries may have become more frequent in recent times due to overcrowding at beaches and design of modern surfboards, which can feature sharp noses.
Researchers led by ophthalmologist Juliette Howden said there were currently no government regulations or recommendations about surfboard design or wearing protective eyewear or headgear while surfing.
“It would be possible to attach soft rubber tips to the nose or tail of short boards and to make fins from flexible material such as rubber,” they said.
Researchers said further studies were needed to assess the effectiveness of protective gear or surfboard modifications at preventing eye injuries.