What Is the Most Common Injury in Scuba Diving?

July 30, 2022 4 min read

There are a few common injuries associated with Scuba diving. Here is a quick guide to help you avoid the most common ones: decompression sickness, extra-alveolar air injury, and pulmonary barotrauma. Read on to learn more! Also, remember to follow the rules for diving in order to avoid unnecessary injuries. Injuries can be fatal or cause permanent impairment of limbs.

Decompression Sickness

In severe cases, decompression sickness can lead to neurologic symptoms, such as weakness and numbness. It is often accompanied by itching and warmth. It occurs when nitrogen bubbles block the blood flow to the body. Some common areas affected include the chest, arms, and shoulders. The condition can also affect the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms, including impaired speech and a rash.

The emergency treatment for decompression sickness is administered to reverse the effects of the decompression. High-flow oxygen is administered to keep the blood pressure stable and fluids are given. The optimal treatment involves the use of a hyperbaric chamber, a high-pressure chamber filled with 100% oxygen. Hyperbaric therapy reverses the changes in blood pressure and drives the nitrogen back to liquid form, which can be expelled from the body within hours. However, if you do develop this condition, you should not dive deep again.

Pulmonary Barotrauma

Injuries related to pulmonary barotrauma can occur during ascent or descent. The extent of the injury depends on the organ affected. Divers commonly use the term "squeeze" to describe injuries due to differences in pressure. Symptoms typically appear near the surface during ascent or descent. When the lungs are affected, the person may be unable to breathe normally or may develop cortical signs.

Aside from pulmonary barotrauma, the most common injury from Scuba diving is the ear. A sudden, massive change in ambient pressure causes tissue injury. This injury can lead to ear pain, dizziness, reduced hearing, or water in the ear. If you're prone to ear injury, a scuba diver should avoid diving.

Disc Injury

Disc injuries can occur in any sport, but diving is especially dangerous due to the repetitive nature of the activity. While diving, you are constantly moving and using your body to support itself, which can cause injury to the spine. Disc injuries are particularly common among divers who perform back dives. While diving, you must avoid this type of injury as much as possible, as it can lead to permanent damage to your back.

Disc injuries can also happen in the neck. Repetitive neck extension can cause irritation to the neck joints and can lead to pain and stiffness when moving the neck. Additionally, a strained neck can lead to a "stinger" or cervical disc herniation, a stretch injury to the neck's nerves. Ten-meter platform diving is more forceful than tower diving, so divers have more of a risk of developing this type of injury. To prevent this, divers should follow good posture practices and seek medical help immediately if they experience pain or discomfort.

Extra-Alveolar Air Injury

The most common diving injuries are suffocation, barotrauma, and lung injury. Each is caused by a differential pressure within the lungs that fails to equalize with the environment. The result is a pressure gradient across the eardrum. The pressure differential causes the eardrum to expand, pushing it into the middle ear space and potentially rupturing it.

It can occur as a result of a variety of conditions, including barotrauma and traumatic alveolar hemorrhage. Both types of lung injury can lead to hypotension, distended neck veins, tracheal deviation, and other symptoms. Alveolar air injury is a medical emergency, and treatment may include recompression or hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The effects of AGE vary widely from mild to severe.

Sea Urchin Injury

A sea urchin is one of the most common injuries suffered while diving. It is an unaggressive marine animal with round, spined bodies that live in sandy, wave-exposed areas. The urchins may be picked up or accidentally stepped on in shallow waters. Their spines are extremely painful and can cause respiratory failure if the venom is not removed. You should immediately contact a healthcare provider if you feel a sting from a sea urchin.

A sea urchin sting can cause minor discomfort including swelling, redness, aching and pain. In severe cases, the sting may leave a puncture wound containing broken spines or a nodule that is flesh colored or slightly purplish in color. A doctor should evaluate the injury as soon as possible after the sting to determine if it is an infection or a puncture wound.

Lung Overinflation

Lung overinflation is the most frequent Scuba diving injury. It can occur at any depth, from ten meters to more than one hundred meters. This type of injury occurs when a diver's lung expands during ascent. Treatment depends on the extent of the injury and the type of lung overinflation. In milder cases, treatment may include a thoracostomy tube.

Lung overinflation is usually the result of a prolonged breath hold in a BUD/S dive by inexperienced or ill-trained divers. Proper training and medical screening greatly reduce the risk of pulmonary barotrauma. Chest CT with inspiratory and expiratory sequences can be used to evaluate the extent of lung damage and determine if it can be safely returned to diving duty.

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