The ocean is a vast and unforgiving place, and humans are not the greatest creatures at surviving in that kind of environment. We don’t swim very well because we don’t have fins or webbings, nor can we breathe very well (or at all) underwater because we don’t have gills.
Yet with our ingenuity, we have developed scuba gear and fins to help us overcome our natural limitations so that we can explore the depths of the ocean (or lake, or river) to our heart’s content. With how advanced we have come in our dive theory and scuba gear, almost anyone can scuba dive. As exciting as this prospect sounds, being dozens or even hundreds of feet underwater in a location that a human being normally couldn’t survive for long begs the question: Is scuba diving dangerous?
Is Scuba Diving Dangerous for a Beginner?
Asking this question is like asking if driving a car or flying a plane is dangerous. There are times when, despite following all the safety procedures to the letter, something bad can still happen. However, following these precautions dramatically increases the odds of a successful dive with no accidents occurring.
What exactly are these “safety precautions” that we speak of? That can be answered and more if you take a good training course from a certified scuba diving instructor. It is vital that you learn the basics from a professional in a controlled environment.
They will emphasize the importance of safety and run a safety checklist with you each time you put on equipment. You will learn about proper scuba diving equipment, how to take care of them, and the phenomenon known as “the bends” which has affected many divers.
There are some additional benefits to taking scuba diving lessons. It will give you an opportunity to meet new people and make some friends with others at your skill level. This is important, because the number one rule when scuba diving is to never dive alone. And if you have a friend with you, then even if something goes wrong on a dive, you have backup to rely on.
We’d imagine scuba diving is a lot scarier and more dangerous if you aren’t properly trained in it. Once you have received proper instruction, you’ll realize how safe, easy, and fun it is. But before you can do that, you have to first be medically cleared by a doctor if you have existing health conditions that may be a concern.
What Are the Most Common Scuba Diving Problems?
Sharks, right? Believe it or not, animal life should be the least of your concerns. Out of the 100 scuba deaths that occur each year, almost none are due to sharks. And of those that are shark-related, all happened in shallow waters where the victim was standing or swimming close to the shore, not while they were diving.
Equipment Malfunction: The majority of the time that there is an accident underwater, it involves equipment malfunctions or failure to follow safety procedures. That is why you always dive with a buddy and stick together. If one diver is incapacitated for whatever reason, then he or she may need assistance to survive that incident.
“The Bends” or Decompression Illness: You will experience this if you rise to the water’s surface too quickly. Symptoms of the bends include nausea, vomiting, paralysis, and in rare cases, even death. People may ascend too quickly because they are inexperienced or panicking and want to get out of the water as fast as possible. Unfortunately, this just leads to more trouble, so it is best to take your time and stay calm. If left untreated, it is possible to die from decompression sickness.
The Squeeze or Sinus and Ear Problems: This occurs when divers do not equalize the pressure inside their diving mask. As they dive further and further down, the increasing pressure difference causes the mask to painfully squeeze against their face. The high pressure can also cause sinus and ear pain. In order to keep pressure equalized in the mask, just exhale with your nose.
Medical Emergencies: If you have a pre-existing medical condition that affects your heart or lungs, you should see a doctor and get approved for diving. Even a relatively minor condition, such as asthma, can be fatal if you suffer an attack underwater. It’ll be a lot worse if you experience a heart attack underwater. If you happen to be diving at a location as vast as the Great Barrier Reef for instance, then it can also take a long time for emergency services to arrive. Even diving with a cold can pose a serious health risk.
The Verdict: Is Scuba Diving too Dangerous?
When you compare the incident rate and number of participants in a sport like scuba diving to other sports, statistically speaking it appears to be safer than most. For instance, cycling produces injuries at a rate seven times higher than that of diving. Even a sport like golf, which people often imagine retired old men casually playing, causes more accidents than diving.
With that said, the reason why the amount of diving accidents is so low is because of the preparation and precautions divers take each time they dive, especially experienced ones such as a Master SCUBA Diver or a Divemaster. Do not let the statistics fool you into thinking that diving is without danger. If you are not properly trained or you decide to dive alone, it is extremely dangerous and is still the cause of approximately 90 deaths each year. Furthermore, divers who decide to participate in extreme forms of diving are only increasing their odds of suffering a fatal accident.