Medicals and Diving: Do You Need A Dive Medical?

Medicals and Diving: Do You Need A Dive Medical?

Are regular medical checks a way to reduce diving-related deaths?

Scuba diving is an extremely safe sport, with serious accidents being very rare, and fatalities even more so.

Still, a few deaths do happen every year, and far from all of them can be blamed on an accident or equipment failure.

Here’s why you need to DIR.

A number of these deaths are not explained, while others are clearly a matter of an existing medical condition causing a situation that on land might not have been fatal, but is while diving.

A Different Condition

An example can be low blood pressure, which, untreated, can cause blackouts.

On dry land, this is a condition needing attention by professionals, but if you don’t include the risk of injury during a fall or while operating a vehicle, the symptom of a blackout is not strictly speaking dangerous.

In water, it is a very different story.

A simple blackout will often cause the diver to lose control of motor skills, leaving them adrift in the water, and very likely drop their mouthpiece.

That way, a simple loss of consciousness becomes a fatal drowning.

Read more about Getting Fit For Scuba Diving.

A harmless low blood presure reading on land can be fatal underwater – Credit: Public Domain

Problematic Conditions

Conditions that can be problematic, and often undetected for some time include diabetes, blood pressure conditions, heart conditions, and more.

These conditions can develop over time, and one of the first symptoms may be loss of consciousness or disorientation, both of which can be highly problematic while diving.

One option for countering this, as Stephen Muscat, Malta’s Chief Diving Medical Officer, told The Times of Malta, would be regular medical checkups.

Problematic conditions like disorientation while diving can be countered by regular medical checkups – Credit: Annetje

Mandatory Medical Checkups

Some organizations and some countries have previously had mandatory medical checkups for all divers, typical once a year.

These checkups are similar, though smaller in scope, to those given to commercial divers.

They would typically contain measurements of resting heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, respiratory functions, perhaps an EKG, and a few simple cognitive tests.

Done at regular intervals, in particular for divers above a certain age (say 40 or 50), these tests could help uncover previously undetected conditions that, if left untreated, could cause a fatal or near-fatal dive accident.

Here are the Contraindications to Scuba Diving.

Often, these conditions wouldn’t even cause an end to the diver’s dive career, as many of them do not exclude safe diving, provided they are closely monitored and treated.

Older divers, say 40 or 50 require mandatory check ups to avoid fatal accidents – Credit: Varina and Jay Patel

Dive Medical and Your Safety

At this point, there are none of the major organizations that seem to be planning introducing mandatory medical checkups for certified divers, and only few countries have this requirement.

But for you own safety, you may want to consider visiting your doctor for checkups on a regular basis, especially if you’re over the age of 50 or have a family history of potentially problematic conditions, such as the ones listed above.

Here’s more on Diving Fitness.

The ideal choice would be to contact your government’s health and safety authorities and get a referral to a medical professional specifically trained in diving medicine, and have them perform a medical check on you.


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