A preliminary study finds that scuba diving may help improve muscle movement, touch sensitivity and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in people with spinal cord injuries.
The small pilot study, presented Saturday at the Paralyzed Veterans of America conference in Orlando, Fla., involved 10 wheelchair-dependent disabled veterans who had suffered spinal cord injuries an average 15 years earlier and who underwent scuba diving certification. Pre-dive tests checked the participants' muscle spasticity, motor control, sensitivity to light touch and pinpricks, plus depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Eight people completed the program and the study also included nine health controls who served as dive buddies.
Among the disabled vets, researchers found an average 15% drop in muscle spasticity, an average 10% increase in light touch sensitivity and an average 5% jump in sensitivity to pinprick. No one in the control group experienced any neurological changes.
On the mental health side of things, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms decreased an average 80%, all of which could not be attributed to the fact that the scuba training was done in a lovely Caribbean setting.