Medical researchers are investigating the use of scuba diving to determine whether it may have the potential to promote rehabilitation in individuals that have suffered spinal cord injuries. The researchers warn that the initial positive indications from their research are very preliminary and a great deal of study needs to be done before they can determine whether scuba diving may provide an effective treatment option.
The theory that they are working under is that at certain depth the composition of gasses in your blood start changing. It may that the increased oxygen make-up of the blood combined with the effects of a relatively weightless environment may stimulate a paralyzed individual's connection with their body.
Water treatment, generally in a pool, has long been a treatment method for individuals with paralysis resulting from spinal cord injuries. But those traditional water treatments do not incorporate the deep water effects that doctors hope to investigate using scuba diving.
The research was sparked by the daughter of racing legend Al Unser Jr. When she was 12-years-old she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and was left paralyzed.
She described her experience after her second scuba diving class. Upon returning to the surface she reported increased sensation in her bladder, as well as being more aware of the spasms in her legs.
Now a team of doctors has taken a group of ten paraplegic veterans on a scuba diving expedition to the Grand Caymen islands. They note the small study group and early stages of the research can at best only point to the need for more research, but report that initial indications are encouraging. They are preparing to deliver their results at an upcoming conference.
Source: WBAL Channel 11 News "Scuba Diving Could Help Treat Paraplegics" June 15, 2011