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U.S. Navy Dive Tables for Recreational Diving?

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Reef Scuba Accessories, Inc.
Chesapeake, VA  USA

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Employing state-of-the-art computers, engineering principles and advanced biomedical research, recreational sport diving has to this day relied upon the research done by the United States Navy in the development of its tables. How appropriate are the U.S. Navy Diving Tables for the recreational diving community? 

Scientific literature indicates that many divers are injured with using a strict compliance with U.S. Navy Dive Tables. One possible reason may be that the U.S. Navy Dive Tables were not designed for the sport diving industry. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for diving conservatively within or well below the operational limits of the U.S. Navy Diving Tables. It is widely accepted that diving the tables to the limits greatly increases the probability of injury. 

Presently, there are numerous computer software programs allowing divers to customize dive tables to suit specialized diving applications. Great caution should be exercised in utilizing these programs. A court of law will strictly scrutinize employment of these programs if offered within the "casual" diver consumer market. 

Neurological Examinations

Commercial diving companies require that all diving personnel be trained and proficient in the administration of a basic neurological exam for post injury medical protocol. These widely accepted neurological tests have been designed to determine whether the central nervous system has been damaged as a result of air embolism or decompression sickness. The examination is quick, easy to learn and widely accepted within the medical community as the most important technique in the early recognition of decompression sickness or cerebral arterial gas embolism. 

The test was designed to be performed in the field by non-medical personnel. The data obtained from the screening is then transmitted to the Hyperbaric medical personnel supervising the medical care via marine radio. 

How many sport divers or dive masters know of, or are competent in, the performance of this examination? Probably very few. Is it unreasonable to expect that proficiency in the administration of this screening tool be required of dive
masters and instructors? 

Dysbaric Osteonecrosis

Dysbaric osteonecrosis is a term used to describe the degenerative changes seen in the bones of individuals exposed to Hyperbaric conditions. The most common areas for this affliction include joint surfaces such as the knee, hip or shoulder. An advanced condition may result in arthritis or the collapse of the joint. There is debate within the medical community as to whether this ailment may be caused traumatically or only through repeated exposure to Hyperbaric conditions.

Diagnosis of the condition can only be achieved by medical testing done at the direction and oversight of qualified orthopedists, radiologists or Hyperbaric physicians. It is recommended by some Hyperbaric physicians that sport or "technical" divers who dive with great frequency over extended periods of time be examined by an orthopedist or radiologist if there are any concerns associated with joint pain, discomfort or disability. 

Reprinted from Delise, Amedee & Hall., The Dive Lawyers

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Revised: July 15, 2014