Scuba diving is considered a primarily safe recreational activity. However, like any other activity you choose to do, there are some risks. The top three scuba diving injuries include decompression sickness (the bends), barotrauma, and animal envenomation. Diving injuries are avoidable if you know the symptoms and signs of injury. Keep these common scuba diving injuries in mind when planning your next dive.
- Decompression Sickness – Also known as “the bends,” decompression sickness is an injury that occurs when there is a quick decrease in the pressure surrounding a diver. Bubbles then form in the bloodstream and body tissue because of nitrogen absorbed at depth. A few symptoms of this sickness include: skin rash, itching, joint pain, dizziness, fatigue, and bladder problems. Symptoms will appear about one hour after diving, but could also show up 24-hours later. Severe symptoms include severe neurological trauma such as coma or paralysis. One primary way to prevent decompression sickness is to not push time or depth limits and to keep breathing throughout your entire dive. Oxygen should be administered right away to help alleviate symptoms and divers should then go through recompression therapy.
- Ear Barotrauma – Ear barotrauma is the most common injury for scuba divers. According to the Divers Alert Network (DAN), “Barotrauma occurs when the pressure outside the ear is greater than in the middle ear space, and the diver does not sufficiently equalize.” If you have ear barotrauma, you will experience: a “full” sensation in your ear, severe ear pain, dizziness, and hearing loss. The best way to avoid this injury all together is to equalize often. However, if you do show symptoms of ear barotrauma see an ears, nose, and throat specialist right away.
- Animal Envenomation – The ocean is filled with a variety of sea creatures, and it’s important to know that some species could injure or even kill you. DAN explains that envenomation “occurs when direct contact is made and the venom or toxin is injected by bite, puncture or sting.” Envenomation comes from jellyfish, sea urchins, sea snakes, lionfish, and coral. Stings, bites, and punctures can cause severe irritation; in some cases, they may cause respiratory distress and hypotension. If you experience envenomation stop diving and seek medical attention as soon as possible. The best way to avoid this type of injury is to never handle any marine life.
For a successful, injury-free dive remember to breathe throughout your entire dive, equalize, and never handle sea creatures. All of the common scuba diving injuries are preventable if you take proper action. If you do experience any of these injuries, contact a medical professional right away.