Diving with Disabilities

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Diving with Disabilities

Most of us take our able-bodies for granted, grumbling when we feel a twinge of backache and feeling miserable when an injury prevents us from getting on with daily life. But for individuals who suffer long-term disabilities, certain aspects of daily life can present significant challenges.

The good news is that scuba diving not only remains open to those suffering with disabilities, but it can also play an important part in our physical and psychological well-being. After drifting around on a Red Sea Liveaboard for a week or examining corals on the Great Barrier Reef, we can all talk about the positive mental effects we’ve felt from our scuba experiences, but it’s now thought that scuba-diving can be used as an active therapy to ease pain, enhance recovery and raise self-esteem.

Using adapted swimming techniques and specialist equipment, advances in technology have meant that disabled divers can take their first ever-plunge in the UK, jet-off to a Caribbean dive-resort, or even enjoy a Red Sea Liveaboard holiday with their loved ones.

With dive-bodies such as PADI and BSAC offering assisted training for those with disabilities, it’s possible for disabled divers to undertake scuba courses throughout the world, where they can achieve their dive qualifications, just the same as everyone else.

Particular organisations also exist to promote and support disabled diving: the Scuba Trust are a charity that aims to help get people with disabilities involved in scuba diving by creating a community of divers and a central hub for information on try dives, local clubs and organised holidays, which range from UK lake dives to Maldives and Red Sea Liveaboard adventures. SubAqua UK is also a good source of information.

Other organisations, such as the Deptherapy Foundation, focus on particular groups of divers. The Deptherapy Foundation aims to introduce US and UK war veterans to scuba, and is coordinated by instructors who train through the Disabled Divers International (DDI) instructor program. This course teaches divers how to accommodate the physical and psychological needs of disabled divers, and involves aspects such as learning adapted swimming techniques, which may involve learning how to rotate your hips and shoulders to propel you through the water; using prosthetic-fitted fins; or attaching a propeller to your tank.

Further to simply enjoying the underwater world, like many other dive-bodies and medical associations, Deptherapy also believes in the rehabilitative qualities of scuba. The benefits of water therapy in easing muscle tension and soothing limbs is already well known and gentle swimming is renowned for helping to strengthen muscles in order to prevent injury but, beyond surface swimming, scuba diving is now becoming a popular restorative therapy.

For people with spinal cord injuries, for example, scuba diving has been proven to enhance muscle movement, motor control and touch sensitivity. Its calming and soothing qualities have also proved successful in easing post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.

A study carried out in Orlando, America, revealed that spinal patients who undertook a program of ‘scuba-facilitated restoration’ experienced an average 15% drop in muscle spasticity and a 10% increase in light touch sensitivity. In the same study, in individuals suffering from post –traumatic stress, symptoms decreased by 80%.

These positive results are thought to be attributed to aspects such as the buoyant resistance training offered in an underwater environment, the more relaxed and unhindered breathing technique that results from breathing through a regulator and from the enhanced oxygenation of tissues, due to breathing pressurized air.

Tags: Red Sea Liveaboards, Red Sea Live Aboards, Maldives Liveaboards, Maldives Live Aboards, Red Sea Diving, Maldives Diving, Egypt Diving, Egypt Dive