Abyss Scuba Diving

Comprehensive Fitness-to-dive Medical Guide - Ensure Your Underwater Safety


Essential Guide to Fitness to Dive Medical

The underwater world is a breathtaking place to explore, but it’s essential to be aware of your health and fitness before diving in. Dive medicals are crucial assessments that ensure you are ready to safely enjoy this thrilling activity. In this essential guide, we’ll discuss the importance of fitness to dive medical assessments, different types of examinations, common medical conditions affecting diver fitness, tips for preparing for your examination, and legal requirements and responsibilities for divers and dive operators. Get ready to dive into a wealth of knowledge!

Diving and hyperbaric medicine encompasses the comprehensive assessment of both general and specific risks related to diving, as well as the range of applications for diving including recreational and professional.

Dive medical assessments play a crucial role in guaranteeing safety and regulating risk for prospective scuba divers. These assessments evaluate a diver’s physical and psychological capabilities, ensuring they meet the criteria of the Australian Standards AS 4005.1 for recreational divers.

Medical practitioners ascertain a diver’s fitness to identify and tackle potential health issues. This allows divers to enjoy the underwater world with confidence and peace of mind.

Dive medicals play a crucial role in guaranteeing diver safety

Hyperbaric medicine is a specialised branch of medicine that utilises increased atmospheric pressure to treat various medical conditions, including decompression sickness and other diving-related illnesses. In dive medical assessments, hyperbaric medicine plays a key role in determining a diver’s fitness level for diving. Hyperbaric medicine, with its understanding of the human body’s reaction to pressure changes, aids medical practitioners in pinpointing potential risks and making informed decisions about a diver’s ability to dive safely.

There are three distinct types of diving medical examinations: entry-level training medicals, continuing education and certificated divers, and occupational divers. Each examination type aims to assess the diver’s fitness in relation to specific diving activities, ensuring that they are well-prepared to handle the unique challenges and risks associated with each type of diving.

In Australia, dive medical examinations must adhere to the Australian Standard for Dive Medical, which evaluates the diver’s physical and psychological capabilities to ensure their fitness meets the Australian Standards AS 4005.1 for recreational divers. This standard is closely modelled on the South Pacific Underwater Medical Society (SPUMS) dive medical examination, ensuring that divers meet a high standard of medical fitness globally.

It is mandatory for medical practitioners to have a level of training approved by the Australian Standards in order to perform diving examinations. Failing to meet this requirement would mean not complying with legal regulations. A dive medical assessment must be less than 12 months prior to diving, ensuring the diver’s fitness remains up-to-date and relevant to their current health condition.

By maintaining these high medical standards, Australia ensures the safety and well-being of its divers as they explore the underwater world.

There are various types of diving medical examinations, each tailored to specific diving activities and diver experience levels. This segment explores the following types of diving medical examinations:

Understanding the different diving examination types and their requirements will help ensure that you are well-prepared and medically fit for your diving adventures.

The dive medical questionnaire is a crucial aspect of assessing diver fitness, as it facilitates the diving medical process and ensures that divers provide accurate information about their health and medical history. Resort divers, for instance, must complete a medical declaration and undergo an assessment to determine if it’s reasonable for them to dive. Providing false information on the questionnaire can pose a hazard to oneself, instructors, and other divers.

Honesty and thoroughness in completing the questionnaire are key for a smooth and accurate dive medical examination. Disclose any relevant medical conditions, medications, and prior diving experiences that may impact your ability to dive safely. Remember, your safety and the safety of those around you depend on the accuracy of the information you provide.

Entry-Level Training Medicals

Dive medicals play an essential part in diver safety

Entry-level trainee divers must obtain a dive medical certificate issued by a doctor, verifying their medical fitness for diving. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions must undergo a full dive medical. In some regions, like Queensland, responding affirmatively to any of three specific queries necessitates a dive medical examination. Trainee divers must be at least 12 years of age, ensuring that they have the physical and mental maturity to participate safely in scuba diving activities. The 'Basic and Advanced Medical Officer Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Course' covers essential qualifications and topics related to diving and hyperbaric medicine.

Obtaining a dive medical certificate involves a thorough evaluation of your health and fitness by a qualified medical practitioner. This assessment, a crucial step in your diving journey, prepares you to handle the challenges and risks associated with scuba diving.

Continuing Education and Certificated Divers

Continuing education and certificated divers must also meet specific medical requirements, including regular diving medicals to ensure ongoing fitness. Here are the guidelines:

  1. A mandatory medical declaration for continuing education courses ensures that divers remain medically fit as they advance in their diving skills and experience.

  2. If any concerns are raised during a medical assessment of a certificated diver, it is recommended that the diver should not dive without getting medical advice first.

  3. The medical advice should approve that the diver can go ahead to dive, or an instructor or certified assistant must accompany them on each dive.

Continual assessment of a diver’s fitness is paramount for their safety and that of others. Regularly updating your medical declaration and seeking professional advice when necessary are crucial aspects of maintaining your fitness as a certificated diver. Ongoing training in diving and hyperbaric medicine is crucial for maintaining the safety and fitness of certificated divers.

Occupational Divers

Occupational divers, such as commercial and scientific divers, face unique challenges and risks in their line of work. Adhering to dive safety standards, particularly the Dive Medical assessment that conforms to Australian Standard AS4005-1, is crucial for ensuring personal safety and effective risk management. As a result, they are required to complete annual medical examinations in accordance with the medical guidelines stipulated in the Australian/New Zealand Standard 2299.1. Before commencing training, all diving trainees must be evaluated by a doctor who is proficient in underwater medicine. Occupational divers often undergo specialized training in diving and hyperbaric medicine to manage the unique challenges and risks they face.

The medical fitness questionnaire for occupational divers helps identify any health issues that could preclude individuals from a career

Common Medical Conditions Affecting Diver Fitness

While diving can be an exhilarating experience, it’s essential to be aware of common medical conditions affecting diver fitness. These conditions include ear infections, decompression sickness, and the impact of prescription medication and contraceptive pills. Diving and hyperbaric medicine plays a crucial role in understanding and managing these common medical conditions.

This section delves into these medical conditions, exploring their symptoms, causes, and prevention and treatment methods to ensure a safe and pleasurable diving experience.

Ear Infections and Other ENT Issues

 medical professionals

Diving can increase the risk of ear infections and other ENT (ear, nose, and throat) issues due to pressure changes and the presence of water in the ear canal. If left untreated, these issues can result in hearing loss, vertigo, and other complications. There are two common types of ear infections: middle ear infections (otitis media) and outer ear infections (otitis externa).

Utilizing earplugs or other protective devices when diving, avoiding swimming in contaminated water, and keeping your ears dry are methods to prevent ear infections and other ENT issues. Treatment of ear infections typically involves antibiotics or other medications, depending on the cause, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can help catch any potential ENT issues early, ensuring your continued safety and enjoyment while diving.

Decompression Sickness

 Diver in recompression chamber

Decompression sickness, colloquially known as “the bends,” is a medical condition that can occur when a diver surfaces too quickly from a deep dive. This rapid ascent causes a swift decrease in pressure, leading to a variety of symptoms such as joint pain, disorientation, extreme fatigue, and difficulties in breathing. The main culprit behind decompression sickness is the swift pressure drop, which can be triggered by factors like a faulty dive computer, incorrect ascent practices, or other equipment malfunctions.

Preventing decompression sickness involves:

  • Ascending gradually from a dive

  • Using a dive computer or other apparatus to monitor your ascent rate

  • Being aware of your own physical capabilities and not diving beyond your comfort level

  • Regularly assessing your dive techniques and equipment

Following these practices can help reduce the risk of decompression sickness and ensure a safe and enjoyable diving experience.

Prescription Medication and Contraceptive Pill

 Dive medicals play an essential part in diver safety

Certain prescription medications and contraceptive pills may have an impact on a diver's fitness. These medications can present a heightened risk of decompression sickness, barotrauma, and cardiac events for divers. It is essential for divers to be aware of the potential effects of their medications and consult with a healthcare professional before diving.

While preparing for a dive medical examination, it's vital to disclose any use of prescription medications or contraceptive pills, along with any changes in health or medication usage since the last assessment. This information will help your medical practitioner accurately assess your fitness to dive and ensure a safe diving experience for you and those around you.

Tips for Preparing for Your Dive Medical Examination

Preparing for your dive medical examination is an important step in ensuring a safe and enjoyable diving experience. This section offers tips on researching approved medical practitioners who can perform diving examinations, collecting pertinent medical records, and maintaining transparency about your health and fitness. Understanding the principles of diving and hyperbaric medicine can help divers better prepare for their dive medical examination.

By following these tips, you can confidently undergo your dive medical examination, knowing that you are well-prepared and taking the necessary steps to protect your health and safety while diving.

Research Approved Medical Practitioners

 Check for pre existing medical condition

Locating approved medical practitioners for dive medical examinations can be done by searching online or contacting your local public health organisation for a list of registered medical officers in your vicinity. When seeking a research-approved medical practitioner, ensure they are certified by the Australian Diving Medical Association (ADMA) and possess experience in dive medical assessments.

Selecting a qualified and experienced medical practitioner is crucial in ensuring an accurate and thorough dive medical assessment. By researching approved medical practitioners, you can trust that your examination will be conducted by a professional with the necessary expertise to assess your fitness to dive.

Gather Relevant Medical Records

 Dive medical examination

Collecting pertinent medical records before your dive medical examination is important, as it enables your medical practitioner to conduct a precise and comprehensive assessment of your health and fitness for diving. Obtain any pertinent medical records, including prior dive medical examinations, medical history, and any other relevant medical data.

To obtain access to your medical records, you can contact your doctor or medical provider. Providing a complete and accurate medical history will help ensure that your dive medical examination accurately assesses your fitness to dive, guaranteeing your safety and the safety of those around you while diving.

Be Honest About Your Health and Fitness

 Be candid about any medical conditions

Maintaining honesty about your health and fitness during your dive medical assessment is key to ensuring your safety while diving. Neglecting to disclose any health issues or conditions that may affect your fitness to dive can result in serious consequences, such as decompression illness or other medical emergencies.

During your dive medical examination, be candid about any medical conditions, medications, and prior diving experiences that may impact your ability to dive safely. If you experience any changes in your health or physical condition since your last dive medical assessment, inform your physician or medical provider before the examination.

Your honesty and transparency are key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable diving experience.

Legal Requirements and Responsibilities

 Understand your legal requirement

Both divers and dive operators have legal requirements and responsibilities regarding dive medical examinations. This section explores the responsibilities of divers in maintaining their medical fitness for diving and the responsibilities of dive operators in ensuring their divers' medical fitness and providing necessary support.

Understanding these legal requirements and responsibilities will help ensure a safe and enjoyable diving experience for all involved.

Diver's Responsibility

 Divers have a legal requirement to be accurate

Divers have the responsibility to provide thorough and accurate information about their:

  • Medical history

  • Current health conditions

  • Medications they are taking

  • Past diving experiences

During a dive medical examination. They are also required to disclose any recent illnesses or injuries that could affect their diving capabilities. It is crucial for divers to provide truthful information and adhere to the advice and recommendations given by the examining physician to ensure their fitness for diving.

If any changes occur in health or medication usage prior to diving, it's vital to update your doctor or medical provider, as it may affect your fitness to dive. Staying up-to-date with your medical fitness and disclosing any changes in your health ensures a safe and enjoyable diving experience for you and those around you.

Dive Operator's Responsibility

Dive operators are responsible for:

  • Conducting medical evaluations

  • Providing medical assistance

  • Ensuring that divers are aware of any medical conditions that may affect their ability to dive safely.

Dive operators must also provide medical support to divers by offering medical advice, conducting medical assessments, and providing medical equipment. By fulfilling these responsibilities, dive operators can ensure a safe and enjoyable diving experience for all divers under their supervision. Additionally, dive operators should provide support and resources related to diving and hyperbaric medicine to ensure diver safety.


In conclusion, understanding the importance of dive medical assessments, the different types of examinations, common medical conditions affecting diver fitness, and the legal requirements and responsibilities for divers and dive operators is essential for a safe and enjoyable diving experience. Diving and hyperbaric medicine plays a crucial role in ensuring diver safety and fitness. By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this essential guide, you can confidently dive into the underwater world, knowing that your health and safety are well-protected. Dive into your next adventure with confidence!

Frequently Asked Questions

How fit do you need to be to be a diver?

To be a diver, you should be comfortable swimming for 200m, snorkelling for 300m, and able to tread water or float for 10 minutes. Additionally, having good cardiovascular health, a mature attitude and good judgment would be best.

What do they test for in a dive medical?

A Dive Medical is an assessment of a diver's health, covering areas such as the heart, lungs, ear, nose and throat, neurological functioning and general health. It is designed to identify any potential risks and conditions, with follow-up treatment or referral to a regular GP if required.

What are the medical exclusions for scuba diving?

Due to the potential risk of unconsciousness, those with spinal cord or brain abnormalities may not be fit for scuba diving. Additionally, those with coronary disease, a cold or congestion, epilepsy, severe medical conditions, or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should also refrain from participating.

What body type is good for diving?

Divers benefit from having low body fat and a small body size. Thus, an anthropometric profile that includes measuring body size and composition is an important component of diving fitness.

How can I find an approved medical practitioner for a dive medical examination?

You can find an approved medical practitioner for a dive medical examination by searching online or contacting your local public health organisation for a list of registered medical officers.