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Overview of Diving Injuries

By

Richard E. Moon

, MD, Duke University Medical Center

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION

People who engage in deep-sea or scuba diving are at risk of a number of injuries, most of which are caused by changes in pressure. These disorders also can affect people who work in underwater tunnels or caissons (watertight enclosures used for construction work). Such structures contain air under high pressure to keep out water.

Underwater pressure

High pressure under water is caused by the weight of the water above, just as barometric (atmospheric) pressure on land is caused by the weight of the air above. In diving, underwater pressure is often expressed in units of depth (feet or meters) or atmospheres absolute. Pressure in atmospheres absolute includes the weight of the water, which at about 33 feet (10 meters) is 1 atmosphere (14.7 pounds per square inch [1.03 kilograms per square centimeter]), plus the atmospheric pressure at the surface, which is 1 atmosphere. So a diver at a depth of 33 feet is exposed to a total pressure of 2 atmospheres absolute, or twice the atmospheric pressure at the surface. With each additional 33 feet of depth, the pressure increases by 1 atmosphere.

Pressure-related diving disorders can result from

Other diving-related disorders

  • Drowning

  • Bites and stings from various marine life

  • Sunburn and heat disorders

  • Cuts and bruises

  • Motion sickness

  • Immersion pulmonary edema

Diving injuries can result in drowning Drowning read more if they cause any of the following:

  • Impaired thinking or drowsiness

  • Unconsciousness, weakness

  • Panic

  • Loss of balance and disorientation

The Divers Alert Network (24-hour emergency hotline, 919-684-9111) is an important resource that addresses the needs of recreational scuba divers around the world in two important ways:

  • It helps doctors provide emergency medical assistance to divers in need.

  • It promotes dive safety through research initiatives, educational services, and diving-related products.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
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Test your knowledge
Fractures of the Jaw and Midface
Fractures to one or more facial structures can result from a single injury. Jaw fractures may occur to the mandible, or lower jaw, or to the maxilla, bone of the upper jaw. Other structures susceptible to fracture include the eye sockets, nose, and cheek bones. Which of the following facial structures is most likely to fracture if a person falls from a great height or hits the windshield of a car face-first during a motor vehicle accident?
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