Study Suggests Scuba Diving May Benefit Paralyzed Veterans

In a small pilot study by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, researchers found significant improvement in both neurological and psychological areas for paralyzed veterans. The idea for the study came from a Johns Hopkins patient who stated that she and others who are paralyzed recovered some feeling in their legs after scuba diving.

Ten paralyzed veterans and nine control participants participated in a 4-day scuba certification course. Before the dives, researchers performed several neurological and psychological tests which were
repeated after the dives were completed. No improvements were noted on the tests in the control group of healthy participants. In contrast, the paralyzed divers, on average, had a 15 percent drop in muscle spasticity; a 10 percent improvement in sensitivity to light touch; and 5 percent improvement in feeling a pinprick. There was also a drop in obsessive-compulsive, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.  PTSD symptoms decreased an average of 80 percent.

The researchers caution that this is just a small pilot study, and that the conclusions have yet to be reviewed by peers for publication in a medical journal.  They also acknowledge that the scuba
certification course’s location in the Caribbean may have affected the results, particularly the improvements in mental health.  However, based on the promising findings, the researchers
recommend a larger study be conducted to see if the results can be replicated in a larger sample. They also suggest follow-up testing to see if the improvements last.

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