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Wilderness Environ Med. 2003 Summer;14(2):83-8.

Experienced scuba divers in Australia and the United States suffer considerable injury and morbidity.

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  • 1Emergency Department, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.



Scuba diving-specific injuries have been well described. However, the injury experiences of individual divers over long diving careers have rarely been investigated. Our objective was to study the acute and chronic injuries of experienced, recreational scuba divers.


This was an international, cross-sectional, descriptive postal survey of experienced, recreational scuba divers belonging to diving clubs in Australia and the United States.


Seven hundred nine divers were enrolled (346 Australian divers and 363 US divers). Most participants were experienced (mean number of dives, 262) male divers (488; 68.8%) aged 31 to 50 years (425; 59.9%). Mild barotrauma was common. Ear, sinus, and tooth "squeeze" had been experienced on > or = 1 occasion by 369 (52.1%), 245 (34.6%), and 66 (9.2%) divers, respectively. Tympanic membrane (TM) rupture, round/oval window rupture, and subcutaneous emphysema had been experienced by 38 (5.4%), 8 (1.1%), and 5 (0.7%) divers, respectively. No diver reported pneumothorax or arterial gas embolism (AGE); however, 31 divers (4.4%) had suffered decompression sickness (DCS). A wide range of other injuries were reported. Sixteen divers (2.3%) reported permanent disabilities, which largely consisted of hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorder.


The majority of experienced divers who responded to the survey had suffered diving-related injuries, mainly barotrauma. Further research and diver education are needed to better document injury rates and minimize serious diving-related injuries and permanent disabilities.

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