Surfer’s paralysis

Dear Editor

I read with absolute shock your report about the little girl paralysed from the waist down by a kind of ‘surfer’s paralysis’ that can attack anyone who is being taught the rudimentary basics of surfing.

I have looked into it a bit more, and this “surfer’s myelopathy” becomes even more terrifying. It is most often seen in those surfing for the first time, says Wikipedia.

A case history posted online describes how a 37-year-old man “developed paraplegia shortly after his first two-hour surf lesson”. The lesson had been “without any traumatic events” and then “after a 20-minute uneventful drive back home” he began to feel “mild low back pain (rated 1/10 on a scale of 1 to 10). He took a bath during which the pain progressed to 10/10 in a 15 to 20-minute period and paresthesias developed in both lower extremities”.

According to the source material, the man has not regained the use of his legs.

Surfer’s myelopathy is rare, say articles on the net, but “the number of people actually afflicted is higher” than data collated since the condition became recognised suggests.

In other words, it is something we should all be incredibly aware of.

Walking along the west coast in summer, you see so many surf schools teaching newcomers of all shapes and sizes “the basics”, I just hope they know the risks associated with all those back ‘hyperextensions’ and the uncomfortable looking paddling belly-down on boards, seeking that perfect wave.

Susan Walker
Vila do Bispo