-- Alan Mozes
SATURDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Paralyzed veterans who
learned to scuba dive experienced both physical and mental
improvements, a new study suggests.
Researchers brought 10 paralyzed veterans and nine healthy
participants to the Cayman Islands in May for a four-day scuba
Before the dives, researchers did a series of neurological and
psychological tests, measuring muscle spasticity, motor control and
sensitivity to pinprick and light touch, as well as symptoms of
depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hostility and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Participants did nine dives over four days. Eight of the 10
paraplegics were able to complete the dives.
Afterward, researchers ran the tests again.
The results: those who dived experienced an average 15 percent
drop in muscle spasticity; a 10 percent improvement in sensitivity
to light touch; and a 5 percent improvement in the ability to feel
a pinprick. In some cases tone, sensation and motor function went
up as much as 20 percent to 30 percent.
Psychologically, participants also experienced a drop in
obsessive-compulsive symptoms, depression and post-traumatic stress
By contrast, the healthy divers experienced no improvement of
"We saw dramatic changes in a matter of days in a number of people with spinal cord injury who went scuba diving," said study co-author Dr. Daniel Becker, head of pediatric restoration therapy at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute and an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "This is just a pilot study, but to see such a restoration of neurological function and significant improvement in PTSD symptoms over such a short period of time was unprecedented."
The findings were to be presented Saturday at the Paralyzed
Veterans of America conference in Orlando, Fla. Because this study
was presented at a medical meeting, the conclusions should be
viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
Researchers said the next step is determining what about scuba
diving may be beneficial in a larger sample of participants, and
whether those improvement are lasting.
They also acknowledged that being on a Caribbean vacation may
have helped injured veterans' mental state.
For more on spinal cord injuries, visit the
U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
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