Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Newbie Surfers at Risk of Paralysis

As the schools empty and the beaches fill now is the time when a lot of people try surfing for the first time. But be warned, there is a little known medical condition called surfer's myelopathy that targets new surfers and can lead to permanent paralysis.

Surfer's myelopathy affects newbies who are unaccustomed to paddling out to catch some sets and is believed to be caused by the frequent repetition of hyperextension of the spinal cord resulting in soft-tissue injury.

As paddling puts stress on the back, newbies are advised to leave the water at the first sign of back pain. Novice surfers are also advised to paddle out in a sitting position to lessen the stress and prevent the hyperextension of the back. In addition to the onset of back pain, symptoms include a decreased sensation in the legs and beyond that an inability to move your legs.

While the effects of surfer's myelopathy are temporary in most incidences permanent paralysis has been the outcome in some cases. The Surfer's Myelopathy Foundation states that, "Due to this scarcity in knowledge, especially in the medical community and general population, SM is under-diagnosed and under-reported. The need to fill gaps in knowledge is critical."

Most first time surfers don't understand that the reward of riding in on a nice set is the result of a lot of paddling out to sea to catch them and therefore their musculature is not suited to surfing. Like most any other physical activity you must make sure that you are in good shape before started on any new adventure. The Foundation's tips for first time surfers can be summed up in one easy mnemonic - SPINE.

S - Sit on your board while waiting for the waves.
P - Pace your time in the water. Limit it to 30 minutes.
I - Insist on a knowledgable surfing instructor.
N - Notice signs of pain and discomfort in your back.
E - Exit the water and seek medical attention if you experience pain or weakness.

Turn your friends on to surfing but tune them into the risks first. Surfing goes beyond the physical, it goes to the spiritual as well and you can only surf the Internet from a wheelchair.

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