Stop diving after 50 years of age?

This question is raised after reading a newspaper article that involved Hollywood star Donald Sutherland.

The 72-year-old star was taken ill after returning to Los Angeles, where he lives, during a break in shooting Fool's Gold – a sunken treasure adventure starring Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson and Ewen Bremner.

Consequently, Donald Sutherland, age 72, claimed that scuba diving almost killed him.

The specialist that treated him, told Mr. Sutherland that he shouldn't have been scuba diving beyond the age of 50.

This statement is completely unfounded and rather typical for a physician who is not familiar with diving.

The article, which is posted below, got a lot of interest on the Scubaboard forum, the biggest Dive on line dive Forum that I know. There are two threads discussing this article and although one is rather long, with currently more than 80 posts, they are well worthwhile reading up on and get a better insight on diving at 'older' age. The threads can be found here and here.

Here is a link to the original article and the original article from the London based Evening Standard.

Donald Sutherland tells how scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef at 72 almost killed him
Last updated at 07:57am on 04.02.08

Veteran Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland has revealed how he was struck by crippling chest pains – and feared he was going to die – after filming underwater scenes for his latest movie on the Great Barrier Reef.

The 72-year-old star was taken ill after returning to Los Angeles, where he lives, during a break in shooting Fool's Gold – a sunken treasure adventure starring Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson and Ewen Bremner.

"I was out at lunch with my wife, Francine, and I had a pain in my chest that you could not believe," said Canadian-born Sutherland, who gave up smoking and heavy drinking 40 years ago.

"Every time I took a breath, I would scream. It was awful.
"My wife drove me straight to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"The policeman who took me in – because I couldn't walk – shouted out that I was having a heart attack."

Doctors examined the actor immediately, giving him an MRI and CAT scan and an electrocardiogram test, but could find nothing wrong – despite the intense pain remaining.
Sutherland's own physician and his movie-star son Kiefer rushed to the hospital as the family feared the worst.
But the pain abated after Sutherland was given morphine, and he was allowed home.

But the following day, the actor, who learned to scuba-dive for his role in Fool's Gold, began coughing uncontrollably.

"Finally, I coughed something up," he said.
"I initially thought it was chocolate. But when I looked closer, it was blood. I was pretty scared.
"I called my doctor immediately and went back into the hospital.
"They did a nuclear scan of my lungs and found what looked like a tumour.
"I asked my doctor, 'What does this mean? Is it lung cancer?'
"He said, 'Well, yes, it probably is'."

Sutherland informed the doctor he had to return to Australia to finish filming Fool's Gold – but was told that was impossible.

The actor, however, had other ideas and said to medical staff: "No way. If I've got lung cancer, there's no point staying - and if I don't have lung cancer, there's no point in staying."
Finally he was persuaded to have a bronchoscopy, which diagnoses conditions of the airways.

"So the next day at 8am, they wheeled me into surgery and they were going to give me a general anaesthetic," Sutherland continued.
"I said to them, 'I don't want a general anaesthetic because, at my age, it tears apart pieces of your brain that will never come back'.
"But they insisted they had to dig around in my lungs, so I allowed them to put me under.
"When I came round, the doctor was standing above me.
"The first thing that he said was, 'You haven't been scuba-diving, have you?'
"I said I had and asked him why. He said, 'Because you have a broken blood vessel in your lung. What we thought was maybe a tumour is, in fact, the clotted blood surrounding a broken bronchial blood vessel'.
"It was a big relief, but then the specialist told me I shouldn't have been scuba-diving beyond the age of 50.
"When I went back to Australia a few days later, I told the diving master on the film what had happened and he said, 'Oh God'.
"Then I told him, 'Apparently I'm not supposed to dive after 50 and I'm 72!'"

The actor says the diving master then confessed: "I know, I know, but I'm diving and my doctor told me I had to stop at 50 – and I'm nearly 60." Sutherland went on: "So my wife, who is there with me, says I can't dive any more. And then the other guy says, 'Yeah. I know. A guy near where we live went in. He was 72 and had an embolism and died'.

"I was not happy."

Please read the Scuba board threads which have plenty of information in them that counters this unfounded statement that you shouldn't be diving after the age of 50.


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