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Effects of an Aquatic Therapy Swimming Program on Adults with Spinal Cord Injuries

Ellen Broach, Diane Groff, John Dattilo

Abstract


The majority of research examining the effects of participation in physical activity for individuals with disabilities supports the belief that physical and psychological benefits exist (Jackson & Davis, 1983; & Smith, 1992). However, many individuals with physical disabilities find it difficult to achieve aerobic fitness in land-based activity (Smith, 1992). An aquatic therapy (AT) program incorporating a leisure skill such as swimming may provide the person with a realistic and enjoyable alternative for achieving rehabilitation. Few studies have examined the efficacy of an AT program using swimming with adults who have spinal cord injury. Therefore, a single-subject, multiple baseline design was used with four adult volunteers with spinal cord injuries (ages 30 to 63) to determine the effects of swimming on physical condition. A single subject design can be an effective tool for clinical evaluation because it allows each individual to serve as his or her own control. Direct observations were used to assess endurance in swimming and forced vital capacity. The intervention consisted of an AT class (3 X week, 1 hour) using swimming instruction as a medium of therapy. For each participant, the dependent measure scores were calculated and plotted on a graph. Body fat tests and social validity interviews occurred the first day of baseline and at follow-up as secondary measures. While no changes were observed in vital capacity, a positive relationship between the AT program and cardiovascular endurance was replicated across all participants and was supported by a decrease in body fat scores. Social validity interviews revealed that participants perceived improved fitness, enjoyed their participation, and reported a desire to continue swimming.

Keywords


Aquatic Therapy, Cardiovascular Endurance Swimming, Spinal Cord Injury, Therapeutic Recreation, Vital Capacity

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