Development of physiological functional capacity in Australian Navy divers
Clearance Divers are the specialist divers of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), who undertake a wide variety of land- and water-based activities. Diving personnel are employed into one of three operational elements within a diving team: (i) Mine Countermeasures; (ii) Maritime Tactical Operations; and (iii) Underwater Battle Damage Repair. Clearance Divers from these teams fulfil various operational roles, for example: mine countermeasures diving; explosive ordnance disposal and demolitions support, clandestine reconnaissance and survey, post-damage repair; ship protection against mining and surface swimmer saboteur attack; operational maritime survey; and defence aid to the civil community. Divers prepare for these often very strenuous duties by engaging in a combination of daily, compulsory physical training, supplemented with extensive voluntary physical training. The combination of strenuous duties and physical training regimens expose divers to increased risk of injury. More than 95% of divers reported injuries whilst undertaking their duties, and of all the injuries incurred by Clearance Divers in a two-year period, 72% could be attributed to physical training. This rate of injury was significantly higher than observed in other Australian Defence Force personnel (50%). Therefore, the objectives of this investigation were: (i) to study the key physiological demands of tasks performed by Clearance Divers, (ii) to assess the physical fitness of divers, (iii) to examine the suitability of physical training regimens to meet these task demands, and (iv) to develop a system to enhance diver capability through improved physical training and rehabilitation regimens.