Locate a PADI Shop

News and Events

SCUBA-Medical Pilot Study

The PADI organization continues to support a pioneering medical study designed to explore the neurological, psychological and pulmonary effects of scuba diving on individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI). PADI provided scuba diving expertise and a variety of resources to conduct the six-week study, which was commissioned by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation in partnership with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Trials were completed in the Cayman Islands earlier this summer, and results of the study were recently revealed at the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Summit in Orlando, Florida on 17 September.

The Cody Unser First Step Foundation was founded by Cody Unser, daughter of Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and granddaughter of Indy winner Al Unser Sr. She was paralyzed from the chest down at the age of twelve by Transverse Myelitis and became scuba certified in 2001 after finding that scuba diving provided therapeutic qualities. In an attempt to further explore the potential healing benefits of scuba diving for people like herself, she made scientific exploration a part of her foundation’s quality of life programs and motivated Dr. Adam Kaplin, the principal investigator from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Dr. Daniel Becker, from Kennedy Krieger Institute, to help create this medical scuba pilot study.

Trials were conducted on ten paralyzed American veterans who were hand-picked by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Cody Unser First Step Foundation. Each participant completed neurologic and psychological evaluations with the investigators, followed by scuba training and open water diving activities. To prepare them for their scuba adventure, the PADI organization provided each veteran and also the researchers with Open Water Diver certification courses, helped arrange the group’s travel to Grand Cayman, and offered ongoing professional support and consultation. Read more about the veterans (184 kb PDF).

“Scuba diving can be a transformative experience for anyone—and we are honored to have the opportunity to offer our expertise and play a role in this important study,” said Dr. Drew Richardson, president and COO, PADI Worldwide. “PADI commends the Cody Unser First Step Foundation for taking this pioneering leap toward seeking out the potential healing properties of diving and developing new therapies that could change the lives of millions.”

Throughout the trials, subjects were paired with Cody’s Operation Deep Down team of experienced PADI Divers who accompanied them on open water dives, guiding them through the adventure of underwater exploration and exposing them to an activity that previously seemed inconceivable.

"It was a pleasure to work with Cody and her team of qualified PADI Divers during this unique pilot study,” said Al Kovach, Senior Vice-President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The veterans enjoyed the training and are happy to have played a significant role in the investigation of the therapeutic values of scuba on people with spinal cord injuries. Paralyzed Veterans of America is confident the results of this pilot study will warrant further research in this unexplored realm of activity-based therapy."

Stay tuned to for more details and the results on the medical scuba pilot study as they become available.

About The Cody Unser First Step Foundation
The Cody Unser First Step Foundation is a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising research funds, public awareness and quality of life for those afflicted with all forms of spinal cord-related paralysis. The Foundation also addresses the cause, rehabilitation, prevention and cure for Transverse Myelitis, and freely affiliates with other medical, charitable and corporate entities to achieve these goals. The foundation also addresses the importance of quality of life for those living with paralysis and other disabilities through two scuba diving programs called Cody’s Great Scuba Adventure and Operation Deep Down, whose mission is to change lives one dive at a time. For more information, visit