The Cool Way a Surfer Used a Giant Wave to Cure a Serious Eye Condition

Surfing’s relationship to injuries is usually causing them — not curing them.

Such was likely the case for a 61-year-old avid surfer who developed a painful eye condition common among surfers, but as luck would have it, riding the waves actually cured him of his plight as well.

According to a case report in the British Medical Journal, the Hawaiian man developed surfer’s eye, or a pterygium, where fibrous tissue grows over the eye’s cornea. Extensive exposure to sunlight and wind are often the causes of this condition, which can impair a person’s vision or cause it to feel like a foreign object is in his or her eye.

Surfer's eye is a condition when tissue grows over the cornea. (Image source: Murray McGavin/ Community Eye Health/Flicker)
Surfer’s eye is a condition in which tissue grows over the cornea. (Image source: Murray McGavin/
Community Eye Health/Flickr)

If the condition becomes severe enough, physicians usually recommend surgery to remove the growth.

But last year, when the experienced surfer was riding the waves in Waimea Bay off Oahu — where swells have been known to exceed 50 feet with speeds of around 40 mph — he was nearly knocked over going at top speed on a 33-foot wave. According to Surfline, a wave 20 feet or higher should be considered “really big.”

His face dipped into the water, according to the case report, but he was able to recover and continue on the wave. But in the moment that his face hit the water, the force caused the bothersome pterygium that he had endured for a long time to be ripped off his eye, the report stated.

The incident inflamed his eye for a few days, but he didn’t require any other medical help for the condition. Dr. Thomas Gordon Campbell, from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland, Australia,  and author of the case report, wrote that he thinks this is the first timesuch an unconventional approach” cured surfer’s eye.  

Dr. Mark Fromer, an eye surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told LiveScience he doesn’t necessarily think that the pterygium was torn from the man’s eye because that the condition is difficult to remove even surgically.

“I think it’s possible he got some sort of blast to the eye that might have torn his conjunctiva. And the blood supply to the pterygium was interrupted, so maybe it died,” Fromer said. “But it would take a heck of shot of water to do that. Pretty unlikely this is going to happen to anyone else.”

Several months afterward, the pterygium did not return, but Campbell said he recommended that should it occur again, the man should see traditional treatment.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

Featured image via Shutterstock