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Is Scuba Diving Dangerous? October 8, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Fitness and Nutrition.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Well yes and no. It’s true there are accidents, probably too many of them and the industry should be working toward reducing the numbers, lest governments step in a do it for us. But for many people, diving should extend their lifetimes. A big motivation for my personal fitness program is to keep diving, and to be able to say “no” honestly to the health and fitness questions on the release forms for resorts and dive training. This also means staying off the long term use of prescription drugs.

So diving for me means that I’ve lowered my risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and a whole bunch of other things, and when someone asks me, I respond by asking if they think that working at a desk and eating fast food is any safer.

A few years ago my doctor told me that my blood pressure was too high, although three consecutive high readings were required to actually diagnose hypertension. By concentrating on diet and fitness, by the third visit I was back in the normal range. These days I usually have readings around 120 over 80, which is perfectly normal, but I have to work at maintaining it. Doctors seem skeptical of their patients ability to make lifestyle changes, undoubtedly due to real-world experience, but I know it can be done.

Advancing through my fifties now, my doctor is concerned about my cholesterol. Specifically LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is too high, although it was lower than the previous visit, and my HDL (“good”) cholesterol was better than average. It looks like I have a genetic predisposition to elevated cholesterol. I asked him what I could do other than taking Statins that could bring me back into the normal range, and he told me to add more fibre to my diet.

So we agreed that I would take 6 months to try and lower it on my own before resorting to a lifetime of drug therapy. Of all the prescription drugs, I’ve read that Statins are among the most benign, as long as you’re not one of the few people who react badly to them, but I will still avoid them if I can. My older sister has been on them for decades.

So I took up a new diet immediately, adding tons of fibre and other foods that are supposedly good for cholesterol, and I’m slowly bringing my running up from 14 miles to 20 miles per week. I’m hopeful that this will work, but even if it doesn’t it will allow me to get by with a lower dose if I do finally have to start the drug regimen. The diet is pretty hard-core and I doubt that some people could stand it, but I’m one of those people who actually likes vegetables. Downsides are the it requires more work to prepare, and I have to be really picky in restaurants. But I feel fit and strong, and that’s what counts.

There are statistics that say diving is quite a safe sport, relative to hiking (and some say even to bowling, although I’m sceptic about that). There certainly are too many accidents in Scuba diving, though. While it’s easy to say the diver was stupid, inattentive, foolish, or whatever, it’s incumbent on everyone, especially dive professionals, to imbue and embody safe attitudes toward diving. One article, published in the Pembroke Daily Observer, posits that more time should be spent on discussing the risks of Scuba in beginner courses. Perhaps there should be. Maybe the death at 155 feet of a newly certified diver in La Jolla, California would have been avoided if that were done.



1. deepstop - October 8, 2008

A follow-up article in the Pembroke Daily Observer discusses the Inquest Jury’s recommendations on the conduct of dive training.


2. deepstop - October 12, 2008

This article from CDNN provides more details on the Petawawa accident reported in the Pembroke Daily Observer.


3. deepstop - October 12, 2008

Yet another update in CDNN says the student was overweighted at 35 pounds, and that his BC inflator hose was disconnected. The victim complained that he couldn’t inflate his BC before he disappeared.
One thing that doesn’t get taught much, except briefly in the fin pivot exercise and the open water CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent), is oral inflation of the BC. On my open water course in 1982, we didn’t have power inflators so we always used our lungs to inflate the BC. Unfortunately the CESA is on the fourth open water dive and the victim may never have had a chance to practice it. In a state of anxiety or panic he might not have remembered anyway.
If the inflator was disconnected when he entered the water, then it was a serious error. The first item in the BWRAF check is the BC, so the buddy should have checked it. You certainly can’t rely on this with students, so the instructor or divemaster should make sure the BC is inflated sufficiently to float the diver.


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