How Scuba Diving Is Being Used To Heal Wounded Veterans

How one man is making the disabled capable of scuba diving

Image via SUDS Diving, Inc.

When Shawn Jones joined the Navy in 2008, he wanted to be an air rescue swimmer, jumping out of helicopters to save soldiers in choppy waters. Jones didn’t make the program—instead spending his five years of service as a crane operator, event planner, and weapons specialist—but in his retirement, he has found another way to help soldiers struggling to swim. Jones is currently developing the world’s most advanced prosthetic flipper.

Prosthetics designed specifically for water sports started appearing in the last decade, driven by veteran rehabilitation organizations like Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) and California Polytechnic State University’s QL+ Laboratory. It’s a unique engineering challenge: Most underwater leg prosthetics only function as fins or flippers, but not pegs, so amputees can’t walk into the water.

3D model of a Triton prototype (Image via Shawn Jones)

It’s not just a recreation accessibility problem. Organizations like SUDS, Wave Academy, and Operation Blue Pride (where Jones has volunteered for over a year) promote swimming and diving to disabled veterans as a way to treat physical injuries and mental health issues like post-traumautic stress (PTS). A recent Johns Hopkins study, in fact, showed that PTS-diagnosed veterans who participated in weekly Wave Academy sessions experienced a 28-percent decrease in symptons—including improved sleep, decreased pain, and lower anxiety.

Shawn Jones

Jones’s prototype, Triton, is the first prosthetic to double as both leg and flipper. The dual functionality is made possible by an attachment system Jones developed while studying design at Northeastern University, where he graduated this spring. Now, funded by a grant from 3D printing startup Shapeways, Jones wants to “break this into something huge.” He talked to GOOD about the design’s inspiration and future.

How did you first get involved with disabled scuba divers?

Northeastern University has a Student Veterans Organization. They had a meeting and said, if you’re interested in scuba diving for free, [Operation Blue Pride] will hook you up. I was like, well that sounds exciting. I had never gone scuba diving. I think everyone is kind of nervous about going 90 feet underwater without that much oxygen.

They taught me within four or five weeks to scuba dive, gave me certification, and then I started working with them. Last year, I actually took a handicapped scuba diving course where I learned how to be a scuba buddy for paraplegics and blind scuba divers.

What sparked the idea for Triton?

There was a guy coming through the [Operation Blue Pride] program. He was a single leg amputee. He ended up quitting after a couple weeks because he couldn’t perform as much as the rest of the guys. I thought, here’s a problem that we need to solve. This guy can’t really function in the water with his current prosthetic. Maybe with some of the skills I learned, I can create something for him. I came up with a few drawings of what I wanted to make, and I started printing mechanical components for this piece. It looked nothing like the one I actually created for my second prototype, but it was a way to get my foot in the door.

Image via SUDS Diving, Inc.

How has the design evolved? What were some challenges?

One of the first prototypes I made was going to be a straight leg [with] a flipper at the very bottom. But you can’t walk on it. After taking my capstone class, I worked with a mechanical engineer and masters student [to study] the feasibility of what I could actually do with the design. We decided it would be the best option to make it so you can walk on it. Something like a peg.

My second design was one where you attach [the flipper] to the socket, which is carbon fiber, where he puts his stump. It screws into the regular screws that already exist. It’s basically like a cane that I took from my regular walking cane. Then I added a fiberglass flipper that I created myself. That was a diaster the first couple times. The connection point that I used for the crutch and his prosthetic, I 3D printed. I only had plastic as an option. It was good and then it snapped.

How does scuba diving help wounded veterans?

Therapy [through] scuba diving has really benefited those with post-traumatic stress. I actually taught somehow how to scuba dive underwater. I was like his buddy. He was freaking out underwater. Right as he went underwater, he had to regulate his heart rate and his oxygen tank. Just by doing that, he actually calms himself down. He’s in his own environment down there. Same thing with amputees. They still have PTSD. They feel more calm underwater.

Image via SUDS Diving, Inc.

How has diving helped you personally?

I am actually getting into the medical research on how water therapy helps legs build muscle. I know from personal experience. I destroyed my back in the military and the water helped me. I went from not being able to walk after my surgery, to walking and running. It took about a year to get back to where I was. Even today, it’s still a bad pain. But swimming is my place to go. You don’t have any pressure.


"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

"The world is your waterbed," Smithfly says on its site. But the big difference is that no one has ever had to worry about falling asleep and then drowning on their waterbed.

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While it is possible that one could wade into the water, unzip the tent, have a pleasant slumber, and wake up in the morning feeling safe and refreshed, there are countless things that could go terribly wrong.

The tent could float down the river and you wake up in the middle of nowhere.

You could have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

This guy.

It could spring a leak and you could drown while wrapped up in eight feet of heavy nylon.

A strong current could tip the tent-boat over.

There isn't any way to steer the darn thing.

This guy.

Mashable shared a charming video of the tent on Twitter and it was greeted with a chorus of people sharing the many ways one could die while staying the night in the Shoal Tent.

Oh yeah, it's expensive, too.

Even though the general public seems to think the Shoal Tent is a terrible idea, according to the Smithfly's website, it's currently sold out due to "popular demand" and it will be "available in 6-8 weeks." Oh, and did we mention it costs $1,999?

via zoezimmm / Imgur

There are few more perniciously dangerous conspiracy theories being shared online than the idea that vaccines cause autism.

This has led to a decline in Americans vaccinating their children, resulting in a massive increase in measles. This year has already seen over 1,200 cases of measles, a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.

A 2015 Pew Research study found that 83% of Americans think the measles vaccine is safe, while 9% think it's not. Another 7% are not sure. But when you look at the polls that include parents of minors, the numbers get worse, 13% believe that the measles vaccine is unsafe.

There is zero truth to the idea that vaccines cause autism. In fact, a recent study of over 650,000 children found there was no link whatsoever.

RELATED: A new study of over 650,000 children finds — once again — that vaccines don't cause autism

A great example of the lack of critical thinking shown by anti-vaxxers was a recent exchange on Facebook shared to Imgur by zoezimmm.

A parent named Kenleigh at a school in New Mexico shared a photo of a sign at reads: "Children will not be enrolled unless an immunization record is presented and immunizations are up-to-date."

This angered a Facebook user who went on a senseless tirade against vaccinations.

"That's fine, I'll just homeschool my kids," she wrote. At least they won't have to worry about getting shot up in school or being bullied, or being beat up / raped by the teachers!"

To defend her anti-vaccination argument, she used a factually incorrect claim that Amish people don't vaccinate their children. She also incorrectly claimed that the MMR vaccine is ineffective and used anecdotal evidence from her and her father to claim that vaccinations are unnecessary.

She also argued that "every human in the world is entitled to their own opinion." Which is true, but doesn't mean that wildly incorrect assumptions about health should be tolerated.

She concluded her argument with a point that proves she doesn't care about facts: "It doesn't matter what you say is not going to change my mind."

RELATED: 12 medical professionals shared their most memorable anti-vaxxer stories and you won't stop face-palming

While the anti-vaxxer was incorrect in her points, it must also be pointed out that some of the people who argued with her on Facebook were rude. That should never be tolerated in this type of discourse, but unfortunately, that's the world of social media.

Here's the entire exchange:

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The post received a ton of responses on imgur. Here are just a few:

"'In my opinion...' 'I believe...' That's not how facts work."

"You're entitled to your opinion. And everyone else is entitled to call you a dumbass."

"'What I do with my children is no concern to you at all.' Most of the time, true. When your kid might give mine polio, not true."

"If my child can't bring peanut butter, your child shouldn't bring preventable diseases."

It's important to call out people who spread dangerous views, especially how they pertain to health, on social media. But people should do so with respect and civility.


He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

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via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

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Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

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