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Freediving and DCI

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Mermaid, Musician and Marketer
Nov 12, 2002
I recently had a bend from freediving after scuba and was treated in the chamber. Once I got better my dive doc was happy for me to freedive 2 weeks after the treatment (competitively) and scuba 6 weeks after.

A friend of mine had a bad bend a few years ago and is now no longer allowed to scuba dive. She has been making up for this by freediving loads and wants to enter Cyprus next year. Slightly worried about the medical, she decided to consult her dive doc (different guy to mine) who said that after a bend as bad as hers (several weeks treatment, some paralysis at the time) she should not freedive competitively.

Is he just badly informed/over cautious and should she get a second opinion? what does the db world think...

has anyone ever got bent from freediving alone? apart from the odd deep sled nutter...

Two things I would suggest:

1) Get a second opinion - that will help to determine wheter the first opinion is valid

2) Inquire with DAN about this - they may have some insight that the other physicians may not have.
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Reactions: OceanSwimmer
Sorry to hear about your injury Sam. (in injury is the right word)

In any case that some doctor say I can't do something I really wanna do, and his answer is not completly obvious to me, I'll go and get a second and a third and who knows how many more opinions, especially if he said I can't dive. I'll also try to find people who are expert, as Cliff mentioned DAN.

Your friend's doctor said she could'nt freedive competitively, I fail to find the difference in risk to her health in the competition itself...
30m in cyprus should be the same as 30m at any other place...
i would say it's worth getting a second opinion, and maybe even a third and fourth...
try Dr. Peter Wilmshurst. from what i've heard, he really does know his stuff. having said that, i suspect that not enough research has been done into freediving after serious DCI - so it may be difficult for diving docs to give really clear definitive answers every time.
...worth posting on apneadiver too. people like Kirk, Rudi might be able to offer some valuble input.
Sam, I can't help answer your questions too much, but would you mind sharing any info on your scuba and freediving profiles and time sequence that led to your DCI experience?
If a doctor told me I can't dive, I would dive anyway. Simple as that. A doctor's job is not to tell you what to do, but to inform you of the risks so you can make your own decision on what to do.

As a case in point, my dad was recently told that he needs a pacemaker. He doesn't want a pacemaker, and won't get one. He knows the risk and makes his choice. The doctors do not force him to do this or that, they just make their recommendation and let him make the choice.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Hey Sam, just to add to one of your other questions, I have heard of freedivers getting bent without previously being on scuba. The cases I've heard of have been people who have done repeated deep dives (constant weight) spearing or otherwise, and have actually accumulated more time at a considerable depth (30m or more) than suggested on scuba tables. Unusual, but it has happened. Good luck and safe diving.


Originally posted by efattah
If a doctor told me I can't dive, I would dive anyway. Simple as that. A doctor's job is not to tell you what to do, but to inform you of the risks so you can make your own decision on what to do. Eric Fattah
BC, Canada

I tried to PM you about this, but looks like that's not possible.
I hear what you're saying about knowing all the risks before making an informed decision.
All choices, (including crossing the street) involve exposure to some risk.
Choosing to follow anyone's advice...even a physician's....involves risk.
However, just to play the Devil's Advocate: If the situation were potentially life-threatening, or you knew it would result in your death, would you still dive?
Do you think it's worth it?
Is it a matter of looking at probablilities and dealing with the odds? I mean this respectfully, Eric.


"It is the province of knowledge to speak
and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen."
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 - 1935)
Thanks for the info.. she is now well into getting a second opinion and it looks good
Eric, like you, if a doctor told me not to dive (and they have in the past for various temporary reasons) I would take the advice and make up my own mind based on it. The problem for my friend is getting a medical in order to compete... she is still diving. She just wants to know whether to hand over the cash for Cyprus next year in case she can't get a medical!

The basics of my own bend were: heavy week of liveaboard scuba teaching dawn til midnight every day, exhausted, not eating or drinking properly.. 16 hour surface interval then 5 or 6 freedives to around 15m max wearing scuba fins. I thought the injury was tendon/ligament damage due to the heavy fins and being used to a monofin and thus waited far too long before getting recompressed... if you want any more info PM me.. This happened in February and I still have some damage to my knee... so BE careful!

Interesting, thanks for the info. I've heard of folks on scuba getting bent diving that kind of multi-day schedule on a liveaboard if they don't watch hydration. But maybe the freediving pushed it over the edge?
I'm glad the AIDA instructor told me not to mix freediving & scuba diving before I got on my first live-aboard last year.
It's so tempting to just dive down in the clear blue waters of the red sea.
I hope you won't have any permanent damage.
HEY! my mate got a second opinion (well the same doc revised his opinion) and now she can free dive.. ace I have my buddy back!
thanks for your advice and stuff
sam x
Hiya from Capetown Sam

Glad you've got your buddy back !

You asked in your original posting about any mad guys bending from freediving. There is a spearo in CapeTown called Ed Hayman, one of the most experienced spearo's. He managed to bend whilst freediving, divers all over CapeTown still talk about it.

I do'nt know the details, but it was apparently as a result of deep spearfishing dives, at very high intensity, and the only case of the freediving bends in South Africa as I understand.

I would be glad to chat to Ed and post all the details if anyone is interested...that is if Ed is keen to part with all the details ???


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Mate how deep is your mate Ed spearing. World champ Alberto March has been bent a few times whilst spearfishing he dives up and down to depths of 45m+ all day :naughty

No idea Andrew, do'nt know Ed well, just met him a few times. I know he dives deep, but would'nt like to guess.

45 meters all day is pretty hectic though.

If you meet him again see if he will join the forum that would be :cool:

Ho Hum ...well last time I WAS talking about a friend who had DCI problems.. but now I am talking about myself again. I am just out of 12 chamber rides for my second DCI Hit of the year. This time it had nothing to do with freediving and a lot to do with teaching beginner scubies.... I still have lots of tests to be done (PFO, lung function and stuff) but they are basically saying I would be mad to scuba dive again. Freediving on the other hand no doctor seems sure about. At the moment they are saying to do nothing for a month and take it easy for three months. "Easy" means not doing repetivite dives (one dive every 30 minutes - in the UK they have to be kidding I will FREEEEEZE) and no dives past 30m... or at least I think thats what they mean.

They have asked me to gather any info I can on freediving and DCI and pass it on to them. I am being treated at the DDRC in Plymouth UK (and will be seeing Peter Wilmshurst for a PFO check, Alun).

Anyone got anything?

Originally posted by samdive

Anyone got anything?


Just a lot of good wishes for you to get better soon!

Originally posted by samdive
I am just out of 12 chamber rides for my second DCI Hit of the year. This time it had nothing to do with freediving and a lot to do with teaching beginner scubies.... I still have lots of tests to be done (PFO, lung function and stuff) but they are basically saying I would be mad to scuba dive again.

Sam, my condolences. Early in my scuba career, I was sent to the chamber twice for odd post-dive nerve symptoms. In at least one of the cases the chamber doctor would probably contend even now that I was bent and successfully treated. However, other doctors who have since examined me would disagree -- seems I have a spot in my neck where the nerve running out to one arm can get compressed, and this can mimic DCI symptoms. So my personal belief is that I was never actually bent. On a positive note, the experience got me interested in freediving.

From your point of view, were your DCI hits "understandable" (i.e. you had to make a fast ascent to deal with a panicking diver, or something like that), or would they fall in the category of "undeserved" or "unexpected" hits?

I don't know what your freediving profiles tend to be like, but you have to dive a pretty aggressive, deep, constant schedule to get bent on breath-hold.
I was teaching beginners so yes there were some ups and downs and ascents that there should not have been but only from very shallow depths and nothing more than any other instructor does not do every day (and nothing more than I have done over my last few years of teaching) so.. undeserved... I reckon!
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