Complete paraplegia resulting from surfer's myelopathy

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Sep;92(9):833-7. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3182411f58.


Three patients with diagnoses of surfer's myelopathy (24-31 yrs old; two men, one woman) were admitted to our rehabilitation hospital. All three patients were novice surfers and had a typical clinical course of onset: rapid progression of paraplegia after back pain while taking surfing lessons. Despite months of rehabilitation at our hospital, in all three patients, complete paraplegia (T9-T12) and bladder-bowel dysfunction remained. Our case profiles suggest that the neurologic outcome of surfer's myelopathy is potentially catastrophic, as has been suggested in previous reports. Surfer's myelopathy has been estimated to be an ischemic thoracic myelopathy. From our case profiles and review of the literature, not only the prolonged prone hyperextended posture of paddling but also the repetitive mechanical stress caused by flexion-extension of the spinal column may be related to its pathogenesis. To prevent surfer's myelopathy and to avoid progressive deterioration of neurologic function, increased education and awareness are essential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Long-Term Care
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Paraplegia / diagnosis
  • Paraplegia / etiology
  • Paraplegia / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sampling Studies
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / complications
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / rehabilitation*
  • Swimming / injuries*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult