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May 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Has Your Wetsuit Shrunk Since You Bought It?

from the May, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Wearing an elastic neoprene wetsuit in dry conditions, before diving, induced small but statistically significant changes both the ability of blood to circulate freely and respiratory function that could affect the physiological responses to underwater activities. That's what researchers at the Institute of Clinical Physiology have concluded.

Twenty healthy divers were evaluated by Doppler-echocardiology and spirometry while wearing full wetsuits and experienced a significant drop in heart rate and lung function. The data supported the hypothesis that, due to compression exerted on the chest, neoprene elastic recoil might decrease cardiac output and respiratory function, causing heart rate changes from normal.

No mention of any specific neoprene was made, and the super flexible chemically blown neoprenes now available might have less significant compressive effects. (Marabotti C, Prediletto R, Scalzini A, et al.)

The Journal Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine reported on similar research done by Schellart and Sterk with 28 volunteer divers in Bonaire (including 12 women), finding that a wetsuit appears to impair ventilator mechanics -- in simple terms, your ability to breathe. Be aware: a too-thick or too-tight wetsuit might be a potential pulmonary risk factor in diving, leading to an increased chance of DCI or even pulmonary edema.

A wetsuit needs to be a snug fit to keep you warm. However, if you feel that your old wetsuit has shrunk uncomfortably since you bought it, the time has come to get a replacement that isn't so tight.

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