DR. PAUL BRANDENBURG
DIVE MEDICINE PHYSICIAN

 
 

Medical certification of dive fitness is required by most organizations when singing in for scuba diving courses or booking guided tours at your holiday destination. Also when renting equipment at a diving base it is very likely to you will need to present a medical certificate.

Apart from insurance and liability issues, a regular medical examination of the fitness to dive is highly advisable to every scuba or recreational diver. Legal obligations to do so do not exist in Europe.

The following text will give you an overview of the examination and certification procedures.

MEDICAL CERTIFICATION OF DIVERS

Physician Qualification

Neither the examination nor the qualification of the examining physician are legally defined. Every licensed physician has the right to conduct and certify medical examination of divers. Divers should therefore ask for a certification of the physician by an acknowledged society of diving medicine, such as the German Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Society (Gesellschaft für Tauch- und Überdruckmedizin - GTÜM) and the European  Committee of Hyperbaric Medicine (ECHM).


Examination

Examinations takes approx 45 minutes. It is conducted according to the guideline of the German Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Society. An issued certification of fitness to dive is valid for a period of 3 years up to the age of 40. An annual examination is required for divers above 40 years of age.


Medical Criteria: General Condition

Recreational divers (in contrast to professional divers) are free to decide not to dive, if they feel unfit or otherwise uncomfortable with the situation. This option opens the world of scuba diving to people in ’regular’ health and fitness, provided they have a realistic idea about their personal condition and abilities. Keeping at least in moderate fitness and in good general condition is definitely required, as strenuous situations can rapidly occur under water.


Medical Criteria: Age

There is no upper age limit for recreational and even professional divers. Although statistically, older divers are at a greater risk of experiencing decompression injuries.  From a medical point of view, there are also no general objections against children diving. Their fitness to dive is generally limited by their maturity and ability of rational judgment. Of course children diving require specially trained (and experienced) guides and buddies.



Medical Criteria: Body Weight

A fixed body weight limit for divers does not exist. Nevertheless, two factors constitute a higher risk of decompression injuries for obese divers: Fatty tissue takes up for times the amount of nitrogen than tissue consisting chiefly of water (muscle, skin, etc.). Also obese people normally demonstrate lower stamina than those over normal weight.


Issuance of Medical Certification

Different Diving Societies and Organizations have developed their own forms for the issuance of medical certifications. In Germany and Austria most organization make use of (or accept) the standardized forms published by German Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Society (Gesellschaft für Tauch- und Überdruckmedizin - GTÜM). These forms are also recognized in Switzerland by the Swiss Society for Underwater and Hyperbaric Medicine (SUHM).


The PADI© Exception

PADI© centers often demand certification in form of the ’PADI Medical Statement’. This statement can be issued without additional costs.