Scheuermann's syndrome


Mar 2, 2018
Hi all,

I have been accepted for a 4 year AROTC scholarship. I am currently going through the DODMERB process. A couple of years ago, I got a diagnosis for a Scheuermann's syndrome, a form of kyphosis. This means that I have a slight rounding in my upper spine, but it has never resulted in any pain or other complications. The doctor said my case was so mild that he recommended a second opinion just to be sure I actually had a true diagnosis (I never got a second opinion given that my back has never given me any trouble). Besides this one thing, I have no other medical issues. Perfect vision, no allergies, no asthma etc. Is there any chance I don't get medically cleared for this Scheuermann's syndrome?
Well that's the thing. Cobb angles are so subjective that doctors can come to totally different conclusions. I would have to check my records to see what exact number the orthopedist gave me, but he did say that another doctor might measure it completely differently. What is the cobb angle threshold for being accepted/denied? Even if were to have severe curvature but no pain or complications would I still get rejected? @GoCubbies
That's the problem with doctors sometimes. You ask 3 doctors their opinion and you'll get 5 different opinions. :D

I asked about the Cobb angle because it's the most objective standard out there for kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis.

Cobb angle standard that DODMERB uses is 50 degrees. So you've got kyphosis in your thoracic spine which means your body is probably compensating with a certain amount of lordosis in your lumbar spine. The Cobb angle standard for lordosis is also 50 degrees. You'll have to get through hurdles for the Cobb angles of your kyphosis and, if present, the lordosis in your lumbar spine.

This is a tough one because it's not only the Cobb angle the reviewer uses to judge between qualified and DQ. The reviewer has to judge if it's going to potentially cause you chronic pain or keep you from wearing your uniform and equipment properly.

If your kyphosis (or lordosis, for that matter) is severe, then yes, you will be DQ at the DODMERB level. After that, the next step is getting a waiver from the waiver authority (WA is dependent on your commissioning source). I can't be confident if you'd get one from the services because the reviewers will have to decide if they think you're going to be a frequent user of medical care due to the back pain that is bound to happen as you get older and take on military duties.

As a side note, I think (I'm not a USN doctor) the USN has tougher standards for abnormal spinal curvature.

Another side note, abnormal spinal curvature is an issue if you want to fly in any of the fast movers with ejection seats in the USAF and USN. Studies have shown that your posture at the moment the ejection seats is activated is associated with incidence of spinal fractures. If you're too kyphotic (or lordotic), then that is basically "bad posture" so your risk of spinal fractures is increased.
@GoCubbies Alright, thank you. I do not think I am at 50 degrees Cobb angle and as I said I have never experienced any sort of pain or discomfort. It was only after x-rays that any doctors actually noticed it. No standard check up even noticed any abnormal posture. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because I really want to be a pilot.
Have your doctors submit their estimates. I am assuming the estimates, even though they vary, are well under the 50 degrees standard. It can only help you in this case.

The Army will waive up to 25 degrees for aviator applicants.

The Army doesn’t have ejection seat aircraft but lowers the threshold for waiver to 25 degrees because of the stroking seats. The stroking seats in rotary wing aircraft are designed to collapse under high vertical G forces to absorb as much of the impact as possible. If your spine is too kyphotic or lordotic, then the stroking seats won’t be as effective for you should you be involved in a mishap.
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