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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Silence on 'the break' : exploring concussion in Canadian West Coast surf culture Dean, Nikolaus Alexander


Over the last decade a burgeoning body of research has emerged that has explored sport-related concussion (SRC) within a socio-cultural context. In particular, this research has focused on the participants of more “traditional” team sports such as rugby, hockey and football, all the while ignoring participants of more “non-traditional” individualized sports such as surfing. This is significant, as over the last decade surfing has seen a surge in participation rates worldwide (Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2017) and has subsequently witnessed a rise in head-related injuries, including SRC. Noting both the increase in participation rates and the rising rates of head-related injuries within surfing, this ethnographically informed study attempted to unpack and situate surf-related concussion within a socio-cultural context by critically exploring how experienced, male and female surfers from Canada’s West Coast understood, perceived, and gave meaning to SRC. The findings revealed that both male and female surfers displayed head strong (Liston et al., 2018) attitudes towards SRC, which encouraged risk-taking behaviours and the denial and downplaying of the injury. Moreover, the findings highlighted the intersections of gender and perceptions of risk in relation to the surfers’ understandings of SRC and raised questions as to who is responsible for educating and diagnosing SRC in unregulated sporting contexts. In addition, the study investigated surfers’ perceptions and attitudes towards protective headgear in surfing and explored why surfers do not wear protective headgear while they surf. The findings highlighted that the surfers’ reasons for not wearing protective headgear were often guided and influenced by larger social, (sub)cultural, and political factors.

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