Scuba diving remains one of the top recreational activities in Florida’s maritime habitats. Whether exploring the depths for fresh water and salt water aquatic life, or cave diving in the Suwanee River valley, scuba divers in Florida enjoy incredible one-of-a-kind underwater adventures. With more than 80 artificial reef systems and incredible shipwreck dives at spots such as Bay Ronto, which boasts a British freighter sunk in 1919, Florida remains a popular destination for professional and casual divers alike.
Slow and steady
Despite state-of-the-art equipment and extensive state regulation, scuba diving still results in injuries, disappearances and even death. The most common scuba injuries are caused by the rapid changes in pressure that divers experience as they descend into and/or ascend out of the depths. Medical evidence indicates that the three most common scuba diving pressure injuries are:
- Barotrauma — Tissue in the sinuses, ears and lungs becomes damaged, releasing air into the veins that can cause stroke or heart attack.
- Decompression sickness (“the bends”) — When divers ascend too quickly, nitrogen-forming bubbles can cause nerve and tissue damage and ultimately paralysis and death.
- Nitrogen narcosis — Nitrogen buildup in the brain results in confusion and delusions, such as the mistaken belief that divers can breathe underwater without their tanks.
According to a report by the Divers Alert Network (DAN), Florida is home to the most scuba diving fatalities in the nation. Furthermore, the number of diving accidents in the United States is far greater than lesser developed countries such as Mexico or Thailand. Statistics also indicate that most diving fatalities involve drowning or disabling injuries.
While there are distinct risks associated with scuba diving, there are many simple, practical steps every diver can take to minimize hazards of the water. The first rule of thumb is to never dive alone. This is a requirement of all divers to guarantee assistance in the event of a problem. In addition, divers should always make sure to take the following safety measures:
- Check equipment before every dive
- Keep track of your time underwater, especially for deep dives which may skew your sense of time
- Avoid excessive depths or dives of extended duration
For those injured in a diving or boating accident, it is critically important to discuss the case with qualified legal experts trained in personal injury law.