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October 2000 Vol. 15, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Can You Control Your DCS Risk?

from the October, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Yes, say French researchers, who undertook a comprehensive study of the relationship between DCS, percentage of body fat, age, weight, and oxygen uptake. Subjects in the study exercised under actual conditions of diving, i.e. equipping themselves, swimming, coming back to the dive boat, taking off and tidying their equipment, etc. They were affected by cold and immersion. Their level of bubble release corresponded to the actual exercise of all recreational divers respecting the safety rule: moderate exertion before, during, and after diving. Then, through blood tests, Doppler tests, and a variety of other tests, they arrived at these conclusions, which we have summarized:

Individual susceptibility to bubble production during decompression does depend on individual characteristics such as age, body weight, aerobic fitness, and body fat. The effect of the percentage of body fat was less significant than the effect of the other variables. Our findings are consistent with the studies carried out on animals, which reported the positive influence of exercise conditioning on decreased DCS occurrence.

An individual can manipulate his personal risk by being aerobically fit or unfit. Recreational divers would be well-advised to keep themselves physically fit by means of aerobic training to reduce bubble formation and DCS risk. Moreover, elderly divers will reduce their body fat rate and will doubly improve their resistance.

As Richard Moon has written, someday, diving computers based on probabilistic models should reflect this reality (individual characteristics) by enabling divers to declare the probability they are comfortable with and then conduct their dives accordingly.

Carturan D, Boussuges A, Burnet H, Fonclarai J, Vanuxem P, Gardette B. Circulating Venous Bubbles in Recreational Diving: Relationships with Age, Weight, Maximal Oxygen Uptake and Body Fat Percentage. Intj Sports Med 1999; 20: 410-414

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