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Navy diver candidate with mild retrolisthesis

I'm currently in training to be a navy diver and I was just diagnosed with mild retrolisthesis. I started experiencing symptoms of sciatica in the first few weeks of boot camp but I never said anything because I didn't want to risk losing my diver contract. I figured the pain would just go away on it's own after a while. Two months later, the pain hadn't subsided, so I finally said something about it to my instructors at dive prep school. I got a spinal x Ray, which showed that I have mild retrolisthesis. The doctor said it will most likely disqualify me from diving, but he's not making the final decision. I have an orthopedic appointment on June 9th, and I want to go with as much information as possible.

Basically, the lifestyle I'm pursuing is obviously pretty hard on the body. Is there any form of treatment that wouldn't disqualify me from diving? I don't think a spinal fusion would look too good. Are there effective alternatives? If not, after a spinal fusion, would I eventually recover to the point where I could handle such a strenuous program? If so, how long would that take?

I appreciate any help you have to offer. I've wanted to do this for a long time, I worked my ass off to get here, and I'm really good at it, too. Any information helps, and the sooner the better. Thank you so much.


  • Unfortunately none of us are doctors, so we can only go on our own experiences. I don't know if you are a tactical diver, or a deep sea (heavy gear) diver. The military physicians or the IME are going to do much like I am sure I went through as a law enforcement officer for the Federal Govt.

    You may be sent for an Independent Medical Exam (IME) to test and assess you as related to the job and its described duties. I know for me, they tested to see if I could continue doing the job, and too, tested to see if I tried to continue the job (training in your case) if further damage would occur if you continue.

    I so hope you are allowed to continue, but in the same breath, I would hate to see you cause yourself permanent damage to your spine. Be honest with your doctors, and see how it plays out. Please let us know how it goes. I had to retire just shy of 30 years govt., so you can guess how my IME went.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • As a (former) Hospital Corpsman I once looked at the medical record of an applicant to diving school. I noticed that this particular person tested positive for Sickle Cell Trait (not the disease). Such a condition can be deadly if the oxygen level drops too much. This is an occupational risk of diving. Once I brought this to the attention of our Medical Officer this person was permanantly disqualified from Diving (and aviation too).

    In like manner, the Navy will have to evaluate you and decide whether your condition poses undue risks to yourself and your mission. You have to remember that these medical restrictions and qualifications serve to protect both you and the Navy. There's no benefit to anybody if your body isn't up to the tasks.

    I wish you well in your endeavor. However, I do ask you to remember that if one door closes on you that another door usually opens up soon after. Please let us know how things turn out.

    Disability retirement
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