Rescue diver at powerboat race injures his back muscles standing all day


I am a 25 year old divemaster. I volunteered to be a safety diver for an offshore powerboat race held on a weekend. The Saturday was to be time trials while the Sunday was the full race. On the Saturday while the time trials were on, we were required to be fully geared up to reduce any time taken to get into the water in the event of a boat crash or man overboard; and we took our gear off outside of the races. The day involved two separate time trials of about 20-30 minutes each and these went without any incidents. I spent the majority of the time standing up or sitting on the side of the boat watching the races.

Once the races were over, my dive buddy and myself disembarked the safety boat on a pontoon and began to walk back to the cars (approx. 100m away). While walking up the pontoon ramp, I experienced a sudden sharp stabbing pain in my lower back and had to take my scuba gear off immediately which relieved the pain. Whenever I tried to pick up my gear the pain would intensify again so I had to get my buddy to carry my gear to the car. While walking to the car pain would return in sudden sharp stabs so I had to rest for a minute a few times on the short (but felt very long) 100m walk. While back at the car sitting down completely relieved the pain, it returned whenever I tried to stand or walk.

I had strained my right Erector Spinae muscles. I went straight home and applied ice for the first few hours and organized someone to replace me the next day. The following day, standing or walking was extremely painful and trips to the toilet were difficult. Bath salts and tiger balm helped reduce the pain. The next four-to-five days involved hydrotherapy in the spa bath at my parents place, physiotherapy, Voltaren, (an anti-inflammatory drug), and plenty of rest. All pain, swelling and weakness resolved within 7 days after injury, however I have continued to avoid heavy lifting and diving for a few days more, just in case.

With hindsight, the injury was caused because I chose to stand in full scuba gear to watch most of the event which overloaded my back muscles. I did not stretch prior to donning the dive gear, and I did not feel any pain or discomfort until the strain occurred. In the future I will exercise to increase my back strength, stretch before donning scuba gear and limit the time spent standing with scuba gear on as much as possible. I hope this story helps makes others aware of the risks of back injury and how important fitness, stretching, good posture and limiting overworking yourself can be when wearing dive gear.