Medical aspects of sport diving

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 May;28(5):591-5. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199605000-00009.


Medical issues in sport diving include illnesses that are caused by diving, and medical disorders that compromise safety. Cerebral air embolism and decompression sickness of the brain and spinal cord can result from diving. Sport divers may manifest a spectrum of symptoms from air embolism, which can range from unconsciousness to minimal symptoms, which include fatigue, personality change, poor concentration, irritability, and changes in vision. The physician must search for these minor symptoms in divers who are suspected of pulmonary barotrauma. Medical disorders of concern in diving include diseases of the lungs, the heart, the brain, and the endocrine system, particularly diabetes. Other factors involved in diving safety are exercise capacity and training. Clinical practice standards usually prohibit diving by individuals who have a seizure disorder that requires continuous medication. In the United States, we will not approve diving for individuals who have insulin-dependent diabetes or severe asthma. Some divers can return to diving after myocardial infarction or bypass surgery if they demonstrate good exercise tolerance and no ischemia on a graded exercise test, which simulates the physical activity needed for safe diving.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma
  • Barotrauma / etiology
  • Barotrauma / physiopathology
  • Decompression Sickness / etiology
  • Decompression Sickness / physiopathology
  • Diving* / adverse effects
  • Diving* / physiology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Osteonecrosis / etiology
  • Physical Fitness