Children

Question:
My 11 and a half year old son is just about to embark on his PADI open water training and I remembered reading an article about young divers and the possibility of nitrogen absorption affecting the growth platelets in the bones of young divers. Could you please email me any information you have about this or refer me to the article? I am really looking for a maximum depth recommendation.

Answer:
This is a hot issue currently. I attach herebelow two opinions, the first from Dr. Peter Germonpre. the second is of mine.
Besides the slight disagreement on the age, these two opinions represent the current situation of thgis controversy.

From Dr. Peter Germonpre
Medically, we can not encourage youngsters to dive below the age of approximately 14 years. This is mainly due to psychological reasons, not physical. In sudden instances of stress, the behaviour of children is ALWAYS unpredictable, which may result in uncontrolled ascent - which can cause pulmonary barotrauma from even 3 meters - or drowning.
The influence of compressed air breathing and decompression from shallow dives is still largely debated, as some suspicion still remains as to possible injury to the growth disc of long bones, as well as to the higher risk of ear barotrauma and lung barotrauma due to immature organ systems.
Many dive clubs are now offering SCUBA training for young children. The more "reliable" ones have an almost 1:1 pupil/instructor ratio, have specially adapted slammer tanks and regulators, have a solid medical follow-up both at the start of the "diving year" as well as during the season, and have only a few, very strictly supervised, shallow open-water dive trips per year. These trainings are more aimed at teaching self-confidence and body control, than to teach the young person how to dive.

From Dr. A Marroni

 

The issue of children and diving is an emotional one, with little scientifically significant evidence.

 

Currently the "American" agencies have agreed on the limit of 10 to 12 years, while the new Junior program of CMAS set the minimum age limit at 8 years. Medically speaking there have been several authors pointing at the potential risk of bubbles impairing the bone growth, if the growth cartilage is affected. This is the reason for the relatively strict depth limits imposed by CMAS ( LESS THAN 10 METERS)

 

However this issue has never been demonstrated. Others have suggested body size limits ( 145 cm and 40 kg approximately ), but this could be problematic even with some small frame adults. As a consequence it has been suggested that a reasonable limit could be reaching 90% of the estimated growth for that person, but even this is subject to interpretation.

 

The major concern regards emotional maturity and the possibility of emotional break-down and panic in stressful conditions.

 

Another issue about which many are concerned is how far it is the child who REALLY wants to dive or it is the "diving-addict" parent who is forcing and conditioning the child.

 

I have personal experience of many many children who have been taught diving in a very early age (as young as 4 years, even if at extremely limited depth, such as 2-3 meters max), now many years ago, who are now enthusiastic, helathy and VERY SAFE divers.

 

This is a matter where there is no absolute truth, I believe, and where common sense and extreme caution should apply.