South Dakota Mines player suffers spinal injury linked to surfing

South Dakota Mines guard Mandy Willmore, right, drives by a Rocky Mountain College player during a game this season.

A trip to paradise turned into a nightmare for one South Dakota Mines women’s basketball player last week.

Mandy Willmore, a sophomore guard for the Hardrockers, is in a Honolulu hospital and is suffering from near complete paralysis from the waist down after being diagnosed with Surfer’s Myelopathy, a extremely rare spinal injury that afflicts surfers, generally after their first surfing lesson.

According to a press release issued by South Dakota Mines, Surfer’s Myelopathy is not an injury due to trauma or an accident, but rather it is best described as a “spinal stroke” caused when blood supply to the spinal cord is interrupted because of hyperextension of the spinal column. There is no medication or surgery to treat the condition, but many patients do recover with time and physical therapy.

After receiving her first surfing lesson in the non-team function last Thursday, Willmore collapsed about one hour after returning from the beach. She was taken to a local hospital for evaluation, where it was determined that she suffered Surfers Myelopathy.

Willmore is an Interdisciplinary Science major from Rock Springs, Wyo. She had arrived in Hawaii with a teammate and her grandparents prior to the report date that had been established by Hardrocker women’s basketball head coach Barb Felderman for training and the team’s participation in the annual Hoops-n-Surf Basketball Classic before the tournament.

“This is one of those times in athletics we need to honestly ask ourselves, ‘Why did this happen to such a great person?’ We all are in complete shock about the freakishness of this incident and the cause of her current health status,” South Dakota Mines athletic director Dick Kaiser said. “We are very hopeful for Mandy because we all know what a tough person she is and that she will work tirelessly to get better. It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family during this very difficult time.”

Willmore will be leaving Honolulu sometime this week and will be transferring to Craig’s Hospital in Denver, an institution dedicated entirely to spinal cord injuries and rehabilitation.

Plans are in the works within the Hardrocker basketball program to assist in putting together a number of fundraisers for Willmore and her family to help with the medical costs.

“Obviously this has been a very devastating blow to our entire Hardrocker basketball family,” Felderman said. “Mandy has been a true team player and her loss is being felt by everyone. It is a very difficult situation right now but our family spirit among the team will help keep us strong.”

Leave a Reply