5 Common Lifting Injuries Suffered By Deckhands and Other Maritime Workers

Jones Act May 17, 2023

If you work on a ship or other vessel and have suffered a lifting injury on the job, you are not alone. These are among the most common maritime work injuries, especially among deckhands and others who spend their days moving equipment, cargo and other heavy objects.

In most cases, maritime workers who suffer lifting injuries will be entitled to maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act. Many injured maritime workers are entitled to additional financial compensation as well. This is true for all types of lifting injuries suffered on the job—including common lifting injuries such as:

1. Herniated Discs (Bulging or Ruptured Discs)

A herniated disc is a type of back injury that can (and often does) result from lifting-related trauma. Herniated discs can result from isolated events that involve heavy lifting, or they can develop gradually due to degeneration over time.

In all cases, herniated discs can cause severe pain, numbness, weakness and limited mobility. All of these can impact not only your ability to work but also many other aspects of your day-to-day life. Treatment for herniated discs typically involves an extended period of rest followed by physical and occupational therapy, and, in some cases, surgery will be necessary.

Since herniated discs are spinal cord injuries, workers will typically first begin to experience symptoms in the middle or lower back. But, the symptoms of a herniated disc can extend below the back and into the legs as well. As with other types of lifting injuries, deckhands and other maritime workers who experience symptoms of a herniated disc should seek a diagnosis promptly, as continuing to work through these injuries can lead to additional pain and an increased risk of complications.

2. Back Strains (Lower Back Pain)

Along with herniated discs, heavy and repeated lifting can cause other back injuries as well. Another common lifting-related back injury is a back strain—most often in the lower back. A strain stretches the muscles and tendons in the back, causing pain, discomfort, weakness, and a limited range of motion.

While many people refer to lower back pain as a relatively mild form of back injury, all back injuries are serious. If left ignored, they can get worse—both increasing the cost of treatment and prolonging the recovery process. As a result, if you lift on the job and you are experiencing back pain, you should not dismiss your symptoms but instead, see a doctor and consult with a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible.

3. Biceps Strains and Tears

The biceps muscles are the main muscles in the upper arm. These muscles are connected to the bones in the upper arm by the biceps tendon. While these are among the strongest muscles and tendons in the body, they can still easily suffer damage due to heavy lifting. In many cases, this damage will appear in the form of a strain or a stretching of the muscle or tendon beyond its limit. However, severe lifting injuries can cause tears, which involve either a partial or complete separation of the soft tissue beneath the skin.

While deckhands and other maritime workers can usually recover from biceps strains with rest and therapy, biceps tears frequently require surgery. In either case, it is important that injured workers ensure they receive the financial compensation they deserve. Not only can treatment be incredibly expensive, but being unable to work during the recovery process can add to the financial costs of these (and other) lifting injuries as well.

4. Rotator Cuff Strains and Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tends to be located in the shoulder. Similar to the muscles and tendons in the biceps, those in the rotator cuff are susceptible to injury during heavy lifting. As the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains, “People who do repetitive lifting or overhead activities are . . . at risk for rotator cuff tears.” This includes deckhands and individuals in a variety of other maritime occupations.

Some of the main symptoms of rotator cuff strains and tears include pain that increases when lifting or lowering the arm, weakness in the arm, and a “crackling” sensation when moving or rotating the shoulder. The more severe a worker’s symptoms, the more likely the worker’s injury involves a tear rather than a strain. Like biceps injuries, rotator cuff strains will often heal with appropriate rest and recovery, while rotator cuff tears frequently require surgery.

5. Patellar Tendonitis

In addition to causing injuries in the arms, shoulders and back, heavy lifting on or below deck can also cause injuries in the legs. One of the most common lifting-related leg injuries is patellar tendonitis.

The patellar tendon is located between the kneecap and the top of the shinbone. When bending to lift heavy objects, an extraordinary amount of force can be placed on the patellar tendon. This force can cause wear and tear over time, and it can also cause an acute traumatic injury if the patellar tendon is not capable of withstanding the force applied to it during a lift.

Similar to other types of tendon injuries, recovery from patellar tendonitis typically involves rest and therapy. Since continuing to lift with a patellar tendon injury can cause the injury to worsen and prolong the recovery process, it is important for any maritime workers who are experiencing symptoms of patellar tendonitis to see a doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms include pain in the knee that worsens with movement, weakness in the knee, and limited knee mobility. As with other types of injuries, it is important to consult with a lawyer about your rights under the Jones Act as well.

Speak with a Lawyer About Your Rights Under the Jones Act

If you have suffered a lifting injury on the job, you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you receive the full benefits you deserve. To discuss your rights under the Jones Act with an experienced maritime injury lawyer in confidence, call 88-468-4878 or request a free consultation online now.

Willis Law Firm, Offshore & Maritime Lawyer
Nationwide Help - Licensed in Texas and New York
Principal Office
5005 Riverway Drive
Suite #160

Houston, Texas 77056

By Appointment Only
Willis Law Firm Portway Plaza
1717 Turning Basin Dr.
Suite #232

Houston, Texas 77029

Back to Top


Protect Your Rights.

"Willis battled the chemical companies
and won our case." - MELISSA C.