WESTON, Fla. – Wednesday is the beginning of Florida's lobster mini-season, a two-day event that will send an estimated 30,000 enthusiasts into the waters off South Florida.
Diving for lobster is a popular activity, but it can also be risky and sometimes deadly.
The Cleveland Clinic Florida is working to keep divers healthy and safe with a special dive medicine program.
With more than 1,300 dives under his belt, instructor Craig Dietrich feels completely comfortable and safe in the water. He has never worried about risks to his health, but that changed a few weeks ago.
"My ears were blocked up and I decided I would go away and just clear it, push it, and it wasn't a good idea," he said.
The pain in his right ear became severe, the side of his face went numb, and then he lost his hearing.
"Then I realized it was time to get some help and figure out what was going on," Dietrich said.
He turned to Dr. Dan Grobman with the Cleveland Clinic Florida. An avid diver himself, Grobman heads the hospital's dive medicine clinic.
"Dive medicine deals with specific injuries that a diver could sustain," Grobman said.
Diving can lead to barotrauma, which includes injuries to the ear drum that in some cases can be permanent; damage to the sinuses; decompression illness, which sends air bubbles through the body; and, pulmonary embolism where the lungs expand and burst.
"Scuba diving is a sport that poses its own unique set of risks and conditions," Grobman said.
Dietrich is fond of telling his clients to be careful not to push themselves. It's advice he takes to heart.
"It was a valuable lesson where you think 'Oh, I'm OK,' but you really have to listen," Dietrich said.
People with cardiac conditions or uncontrolled asthma should not dive, and it's important to know that the negative side effects of many medications can be amplified during a dive, including anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants, and antihistamines.
Experts say dive physicals should be performed at least every two years or sooner if the diver has undergone surgery or had some health issue.