Two physicians will discuss the health issues scuba divers face during a talk Thursday at Saint Vincent Hospital.

Scuba diving is a safe sport with relatively low fatality and injury rates. Fewer than 125 people die worldwide each year from diving-related activities, according to the Divers Alert Network.

But accidents do happen, and mistakes can lead to serious, even life-threatening health problems, said Sidney Lipman, M.D., an Erie physician and diver.

“I call it Mike’s Law in honor of a friend of mine who was a scuba diver and pilot,” said Lipman, an ear, nose and throat specialist. “The critical thing with diving is not the risk but the margin of error. The margin of error for scuba diving is nonexistent. Mistakes can quickly become fatal.”

Lipman and Jack Anon, M.D., a fellow physician and diver, will discuss how divers can practice their sport safely during a talk Thursday at Saint Vincent Hospital. “Diving Medicine for Scuba Divers” is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the hospital’s McGarvey Learning Center.

The event was organized by local diver Brian Gilmore and Matt Dickey, owner of Diver’s World. It is free and open to the public, though reservations should be made by calling 459-3195 or visiting the Blue Dolphin Skin Divers Facebook page.

“I had a diving student who suffered a ruptured eardrum but didn’t have the typical symptoms,” Dickey said. “We suggested he see Dr. Lipman. I later talked with Dr. Lipman, and we thought it would be good to have a talk about these kind of diving-related issues.”

Ruptured ear drums and other ear and sinus problems are often caused by the rapidly changing water pressures divers encounter when going below the surface. More severe issues, like the bends, occur when nitrogen bubbles from dissolved gases enter tissues or the bloodstream because of rapidly decreasing pressure.

“You can develop serious pressure problems at four feet of depth,” Lipman said. “That’s why divers are instructed not to hold their breath when diving, and to pinch their nose, close their lips and breathe out as they go under the surface.”

The talk will follow the group’s regular monthly meeting. Gilmore, a member of the Blue Dolphins, said he believes the physicians will provide information that benefits new and experienced divers.

“New divers have so much to learn, but I think we will all learn something from this,” Gilmore said. “It’s not just for beginners.”

David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at

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