There are two spinal issues that beachgoers should be aware of while frolicking in the surf: cervical spinal injuries and thoracic spinal injuries. Both are uncommon, but they can occur. Cervical injuries occur at the beach typically when the head is pile driven down into the sand. This occurs when people have an undeniable urge to do flips on the beach and land on their head. The axial load along with hyperextension or hyperflexion can cause catastrophic injuries to the neck. Body surfing, boogie boarding and surfing can also lead to the head being driven down into the sand, resulting in severe injuries and fractures to the cervical spine.
Another injury unique for beachgoers doing surf activities is something called surfer’s myelopathy. As beginner surfers get on the surfboard and hyperextend their back more than normal, they can kink the blood flow to the spinal cord, similar to kinking water flow in a garden hose. This decrease in blood flow to the spinal cord can create unusual neurologic findings that the beachgoer may be unaware of.
The symptoms from cervical myelopathy are unusual stiffness and back pain in the mid-thoracic spine, difficulty urinating (something atypical for this age population), numbness in the legs, weakness in the legs, difficulty climbing stairs and legs giving way. All of these unusual neurologic thoracic complaints are fairly consistent in cervical myelopathy.
Although both cervical myelopathy and cervical injuries are rare, the beachgoer should be aware of this and seek immediate medical attention if any of these injuries or symptoms develop.
The summer time affords the opportunity to enjoy the water and water sports. Unfortunately, there is always risk of injury while swimming in the ocean. Should any spinal symptoms develop in beachgoers, request a consultation with Atlantic Spine Specialists. Atlantic Spine Specialists feature fellowship-trained, board-certified spine surgeons Dr. Carl Giordano and Dr. Richard Nachwalter. Visit Atlantic Spine Specialists website at atlanticspinespecialists.com, call them at 973-971-3500, or visit their office at 131 Madison Ave, Suite 110, in Morristown, NJ.