Snowboarding Gold Medalist Retires at 25 Due to Spinal Condition

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Top spinal surgeon Dr. Todd Gravori comments on Kaitlyn Farrington’s forced early retirement due to cervical spinal stenosis

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Each individual is different, and should be treated accordingly with personalized treatment plans that take into account all possible aspects of the patient and their injury.

According to a recent article from ESPN, professional snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington, who won the gold medal for women’s halfpipe in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, has been forced to retire from the sport at age 25 due to a condition called congenital cervical stenosis. Farrington had no idea she had the condition until a minor fall a few months ago led to temporary paralysis from her neck down, prompting her to see a doctor. Expert spine surgeon Dr. Todd Gravori comments on cervical spinal stenosis and what that means for an athlete.

“Cervical stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal is abnormally narrow, leading to pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots,” explained Dr. Gravori. “It can be present from birth, or it can appear as a result of trauma to the spine or age-related conditions. In Ms. Farrington’s case, it was present from birth, although she did not realize she had it until recently.”

Spinal stenosis is a common condition, affecting many people around the world. In many cases, it can be treated effectively through either medication and physical therapy or surgery; however, for an athlete, it can be a much bigger deal. In the case of stenosis present from birth, there may not be much that can be done to correct it fully enough to be safe to return to a sport, especially one as fraught with the potential for injury as snowboarding.

“Ms. Farrington was lucky that her fall resulted only in temporary paralysis,” said Dr. Gravori. “If she were to continue snowboarding professionally, it would only be a matter of time before another fall had worse consequences. It is possible that she could continue to be lucky as she had before, but it would be a large risk to take.”

In addition to spinal stenosis, Kaitlyn also was discovered to have a herniated disc. Herniated discs happen when the outer layer of a vertebral disc ruptures, allowing the inner material to escape and press against the spinal cord, causing pain and discomfort. Herniated discs may be treated with conservative methods or through minimally invasive spinal surgery, depending on the nature of the rupture.

“Each individual is different, and should be treated accordingly with personalized treatment plans that take into account all possible aspects of the patient and their injury,” said Dr. Gravori. “In the end, the doctor should prescribe what is right for the patient, no matter if they are a sports star or an office worker. I wish Kaitlyn Farrington the best of luck, and hope that she finds a new career path safer for her health.”

Based in Los Angeles, Todd Gravori, MD, FACS, QME is a board-certified spinal and neurosurgeon specializing in the treatment of back, neck, and spinal conditions via minimally invasive procedures. From each of his five boutique locations, Dr. Gravori offers comprehensive treatment including diagnosis, education, treatment, surgery, and aftercare. Dr. Gravori offers treatment for herniated discs, spinal instability, spinal deformity, spine tumors, brain tumors, meningioma, hematomas, cavernous malformations, and carpel tunnel. Unlike large hospitals, Dr. Gravori’s unique outpatient structure offers personalized care in a safe and controlled environment. To learn more about Dr. Gravori and his high-end outpatient facilities, visit the new website at

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