Sea Notes

Doctor’s notes for surfers

I was first introduced to him as Blaze, a cool guy and a fellow surfer who enjoyed big waves, paddling out at Todos Santos on those days when most surfers are looking for something a little tamer. After meeting him I was told that he was a doctor, who, with his wife, Elizabeth, owned and operated Mission Urgent Care in Oceanside. Hearing that I wasn’t too fond of doctors, Blaze tricked me into getting a physical at his office. Honestly, it wasn’t so bad.
Having interviewed numerous practitioners of “alternative” medicine, I decided to go the conventional route. Being a surfer himself, Blaze knows what possible health dangers wave riders face. Surprisingly, he didn’t list big wave surfing among them.
Interviewed at Mission Urgent Care in Oceanside
Chris Ahrens: Is cold water a problem for a surfer’s health?
Dr. Baniadam: Cold water can be a problem for the outer ear, since the ear canal can begin to close as a response to the cold. It’s like the body is trying to keep the cold water out. Also, being immersed in cold water for long periods of time, the body works to keep the temperature up. If you have been exposed to a cold, you might not get a cold. Long exposure to cold water can trigger a cold if you have been exposed, however.
CA: What other problems do surfers face?
DB: One of the most common problems is from a high bacteria count. Sinus problems can settle in when you are held under water in a place with a high bacteria count. Any outflows areas: drainpipes, river mouths like Cardiff, Del Mar and Ponto can all have a high bacteria count. Little kids shouldn’t play in those areas.
CA: What other problems are surfers prone to?
DB: One thing are Terygia. It’s a growth in the eye that goes toward the cornea. It’s caused by exposure to sun, salt and wind. Sunglasses can help, or a hat with a bill. In some older surfers you can even see cancer in that area. Of course skin cancers are a problem and sun block is always a good idea.
CA: Are traveling surfers at a higher risk?
DB: They can be, especially when visiting places like Indonesia. Some surfers come back with malaria and they have it for life. Look at the Centers for Disease Control Web site to see what precautions to take when traveling to certain areas.
CA: Shortboarders and longboarders seem to get different types of skeletal problems.
DB: Surfing can wear down the neck, hip and knee because of repetitive motion. Stretching helps to prevent muscle tears, and keeping your weight down helps keep pressure off the joints. Shortboard shredders doing rigorous maneuvers are more prone to long-term consequences than longboarders who tend to glide.
CA: Do you see a lot of head injuries?
DB: Be careful when surfing in crowds. A lot of the head injuries in surfing happen in crowded conditions. A helmet can be helpful in avoiding them. Also cuts on feet from reefs or stingrays can be a problem. Wearing booties, even in the summer, can offer an extra amount of protection.
CA: Thanks Blaze. See you in the water.
DB: See you there.
Dr. Baniadam can be found working at his practice or searching out the biggest rideable surf on the coast.