by Sebastian Näslund 2007

Competition Safety freediver course

How to handle deep BO - a real case.

General safety in recreational freediving

Lanyards & tags

Idea 1:
Why not grade the Aida judges after how many performances they have judged - not the amount of events they taken part in - since events can vary enourmously in size.

The amount of E judging promotes your growth into D, C, B,A judge.

Idea 2:
Do young healthy freedivers realy need to have a medical check every year? In some countries commercial divers <40yrs only have to do medical check up every 5 yrs.

Idea 3:
Due to the improvement of AB safety - a final AP could be delivered very close to top. This will improve safety and competition drama.

Safety standards for freedive competitions
a proposition for some changes in Aida guidelines

General
Risk is always there in freediving, but real accidents in need of medical attention seldom happen. But if they happen they will be severe - so severe that the victim probably needs to get to hospital ASAP.

The main safety device is the judgment of the athlete himself. After that it is mainly about the all over set up - the consciousness of small details in the proceedures on how we conduct competitions. The most important person when it comes to safety issues is the person who can say: "we cancel today" or "I will not let you dive that deep". A physician without knowledge of apnea are usually not able to give good advice on a freedivers abilty to dive. Without experience and knowledge the answer will be a safe and easy: no.

The weakest link in safety in a freedive competition today are not the medical personel.
There are other things that could be improved:
1) Better safetydivers.
2) More reliable antiballast systems.
3) Better lanyards (bottom plates).
4) Good depthsounders monitoring dives.
5) Faster evacuation methods.

The conclusion is that we need a course for safetyfreedivers aswell as paying them more so that it becomes a more resepctable skill in our ranks. (since this was written Aida has developed a course).

No doctor at shallow water competitions
The presence of a doctor at a freedive competition is sometimes a problem for the organizer. They can be hard to find and are at times costly. If we want our sport to spread we should open up to the idea of allowing shallower comps with less strict safety rules, down to 30 meters there is no need of scuba or anti-ballast safety. And a CPR skilled person with experience of BTT and oxygendevices  might be anough medical safety. In a case of severe accidents it is usuaally a question of evacuation to hospital. This would open up for more beginners competitions.

At the same time I believe we should sharpen the competence at deeper competitons, among others have mandatory oxygene treatment, squeeze checks and make use of known "apnea" doctors. 





Competence
Pool
Depth-30
Depth 31-65
Depth 66+
Special*
BTT
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
CPR
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Oxygen
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Trained safety freediver
level 1
level 1
level 2
level 2/3
level 3
EMT - personell
Yes/opt*
Opt*
Yes
Yes
Yes
Intubation
Yes
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Oxygen treat at depth
-
-
-
Yes
Yes
Squeeze check with oxymeter
-
-
-
Yes
Yes
Defibrillator
Opt
-
-
opt
Yes
Hyperbar/apnea Doctor
-
-
-
opt
Yes
Scuba/tri standby
-
opt
opt
opt
Yes
Scuba/trimix at depth
-
opt
opt
opt
opt

















* No EMT. This opens up for less advanced competitions with performance limits. With not as high standards on medic safety as normal. There is still BTT and HLR and oxygen competence.
*Special refering to world records, advanced national records, world championships and big international championships.

Equipment
Pool
Depth
-30
Depth
31-65
Depth 66+
Special*
Oxygen
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Phone
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Evacuation vehicle
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
First aid kit
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Board/stretcher
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Intubation
Yes
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Defibrillators
opt
-
-
opt
Yes
Anti ballast
-
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Safety plattform
max 20cm above waterlevel
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Extra lanyards
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Hyperbar chamber in the vicinity
-
-
Yes
Yes
Yes
Depth sounder surveilance
-
-
opt
Yes
Yes
Visual surveilance (video)
-
-
-
-
Yes
Scuba/trimix stand by
-
opt
opt
opt
Yes
Scuba/trimix at depth
-
opt
opt
opt
opt
Liftbags
-
-
-
-
opt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


About freediving competitions
Competition freediving has been around for more than 15 years internationally, in Sweden since 2000. A freediving comp is not a high risk venture of any sort - it has no resemblance to spectacular record attempts so vividly described in media whenever someone does something irresponsible and gets hurt.

Swimming down and up with ones own propulsion in the presence of judges and experienced freedivers and backed-up by a counterbalance system with lanyards (for retrieval of the athlete) is a lot less risky than a solo-spearfish excursion.

Actually the counter-ballast system (the last resort in emergency) has never been deployed in a competition.

The dangers
In a freediving competition there are always experienced freedivers around that has dealt with the foreseen and "controlled" accidents that sometimes occur:
1) LMC - Loss of motor control
2) Shorter and longer blackouts that occur at the surface after dive. Due to loss of oxygen partial pressure
3) Blackouts the last 10-15 meters up to the surface, as in number 2

Other accidents that could happen:
4) Lungsqueeze or thoraxsqueeze (traces of blood or bloodplasma spitting).
5) Barotraumas.
6) Longer freediver laryngospasm.
7) Non diving related injuries (cuts and wounds e t c)

Other extreme possibilities:
8) Air embolism (due to air-packing).
9) Heart failures.
10) Triggering of unknown sicknesses.
11) DCS

Some competitions may have as many as 10% of LMC and BO incidents. (Unfortunately Aida has for years missed the opportunity to gather statistics on this).

There are no scuba hyper-bar related issues with freediving (apart from extreme world record attempts and thelike) nor any near drowning scenarios (so far) since the freediver laryngospasm kicks in during a Shallow water blackout. Our concerns are mainly temporary hypoxia and athletes getting squeezed (generally blood vessels breaking in the thorax) which could involve second drowning scenarios .
Our own expertise always involves CPR skills and oxy-box treatment.
These risk evaluations we base on thousands of competition dives.

The medical personel
To be honest so far a physician has never (?) saved or helped a freediver in any advanced way. The judges, organizers, freeedivers themselves have or could have been able to judge if its a hospital case or not. But since we dont know if physicians will be needed - we have them there just in case. There are several differences in medical personel asked for at a competition:

1) EMT - emergency medical technician (like ambulance personel), nurses, medic students on their last practical year.
2) Physicians, hyperbar doctors, anaestecia doctors, sportsmedicine doctors.

The organization could also need the physicians expertize on:
1) Advicing divers on taking medicines and their effect on diving.
2) The anti-doping laws.

Demands on Anti-ballast
As we now see competitions with AB (and maybe soon DRUM) as only retrieval system - more demands should be placed on the smooth running of these mechanical systems.

- The AB must be tried before every competition day with a full retrieval from 50% of max competition depth.

- The AB drop zone must be minimum 5 meters or at least 8% of maxdepth away from competition line.

- The AB dropweight should be hanging separatly attached to the dropline with a carabiner (in this way the system stays balanced in normal proceedure).

- The AB drop weight (incl permanent weight on the dropline) must be at least 200% of the competition bottomweight.

- The AB bottom plate must not be wider than 20 cm.

- There must be a stopknot 80 cm above bottomplate.