The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo brings divers from all disciplines to sunny South Florida for two days of education, seeing new products and services and catching up with dive buddies from across the globe.

DeeperBlue.com was able to talk to Dr. Juan M. Valdivia-Valdivia, the medical and science communications chief for AIDA (the International Association for the Development of Apnea) and learn about a new, five-minute Neuro-Exam for Free(divers) Guide that will be rolled out as a tool for any diver on the AIDA Facebook Page later this month.

Dr. Valdivia (who prefers to be called Juani) is a neurosurgeon and freediving instructor. He explained that his goal is “to teach this to everyone who freedives.” Specifically:

“The goal is to use this as a tool to assess neurological status after any hypoxic event, administered by freedivers to freedivers, in remote areas with no physician/medic, such as a boat, platform or beach, as is common in freediving.”

As most divers know, Cerebral Hypoxia is a medical condition where decreased oxygen to the brain results in certain symptoms. In freediving, this is identified as either a Loss of Motor Control (LMC) or “Samba,” or a Blackout (BO).

Juani has named these “Freediving (cerebral) Hypoxia Events,” and they are two of the most common manifestations of Cerebral Hypoxia seen by a diver afflicted by this condition. A few recent incidents in both competition and in the freediving community at large has prompted Juani to develop his five-minute Neuro-Exam for Free(divers) so that an on the spot assessment and subsequent reassessments can be accomplished to determine whether a diver should return to the water or receive additional, advanced medical treatment.

Juani believes that “elevating the suspicion of a neurological deviation from the ‘normal,’ after a hypoxic event could save lives.”

By assessing the symptoms of the diver in an orderly, repeatable method, changes can be observed and additional conditions can be identified. Administered post-competition dive to a diver who has experienced a BO or LMC, the assessment can help a coach and competition officials determine whether the athlete is safe to return for subsequent dives after a 24-hour period.

The handy guide will be posted on AIDA’s Facebook page initially for widest dissemination to divers as a PDF. In the document, the diver will find the easy-to-remember acronym for the neuro exam MouthFillCO2.”

The “M” stands for Motor and Memory, “F” stands for Feeling and Fine Skills, C” for Coordination and Balance, “O” for Orientation and “2” for two eyes.

There are examples of each neurological assessment test and how to perform them, as well as a grading matrix that totals the score from the assessment and indicates a Dive/No Dive status.

Juani hopes that this tool will become widely used and a standard part of every diver’s safety skillset.

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John Griffith
John Griffith is an avid SCUBA and Freediver based in Southeast Florida, with over 34 years of experience in the recreational, military and commercial dive fields. Retired from military service, John completed Bachelor Degrees in both Business Administration and Journalism, a M.Ed and PhD in Education. John is a driven conservationist and social activist...with a great passion for sharks, cigars, rum and writing. John is an Associate Editor with DeeperBlue.com.

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