The Psychosocial Influence of SCUBA Diving on Individuals with a Spinal Cord Injury: A Pilot Study

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Nicole Taylor

Second Advisor

John McNeill

Third Advisor

Don Gerber


Spinal cord injury, SCUBA diving, Rehabilitation


Objective: This pilot study was conducted to determine feasibility and to detect potential risks and benefits of SCUBA diving for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Methods: Twenty-two participants with spinal cord injuries, participating in inpatient rehabilitation, completed a 45-minute SCUBA dive experience through the therapeutic recreation department. Participants completed self-report measures to assess SCUBA diving related symptoms, central nervous system changes, and positive and negative mood states. This pilot study also examined recruitment potential and the duration of time to complete the study.

Results: Thirty-two individuals expressed interest in participating, 24 were enrolled, and 22 completed the study. There were no adverse events reported during the study. In terms of SCUBA diving related symptoms, reported ear pain had the greatest increase pre to post dive. Participants reported improvements in motor function, body temperature, spasms, and pain when at the depth of 12 feet underwater versus immediately after the dive. Approximately 64% of participants reported an increase in positive affect and 59% reported a decrease in negative affect after completing the dive experience.

Conclusions: Results suggest that it was feasible to safely conduct the study, effectively recruit participants, and complete the study within the desired time frame. Also, given there was an indication that positive mood increased and negative mood decreased after participating in SCUBA diving, future studies are necessary to validate this finding.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


42 pages

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