Recently I heard of a case of a condition called Surfer’s Myelopathy (SM) took place in Taiwan to a lady who was taking a beginners lesson. The injury left the woman with severe spinal injuries that took years to recover from. I was shocked, as while I have suffered and witnessed plenty of injuries and accidents in my 25 years of surfing (mostly caused by people hitting the reef) I have never heard of someone being left unable to walk after a simple surfing lesson. I have done a little research to try to understand the condition a little better to make sure that we can minimise the risk for our students. Below I set out a litle about what I found out on the rare condition, and also my own thoughts on how to lower the risk of such an injury or any other injury for that matter while in the water.
What is Surfer’s Myleopathy?
Surfer's myelopathy (SM) is a rare nontraumati paraplegia. It is a spinal cord injury caused by hyperextension of the back. When the back is hyperextended, a blood vessel leading to the spine can become kinked, depriving the spinal cord of oxygen. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as "a stroke of the spinal cord. To simplify, it is a rare injury, not caused by a trauma (such as a fall) which damages the spinal cord and can leave a person potentialy paralised from the waist down. It is considered the cause is from over extending the back, or from having the back over extended (over arched) from the surfing posture.