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Paralympic Sports Medicine—Current Evidence in Winter Sport: Considerations in the Development of Equipment Standards for Paralympic Athletes

Burkett, Brendan PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: January 2012 - Volume 22 - Issue 1 - p 46–50
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31824200a4
Thematic Issue

Objective To highlight and discuss the considerations for the future development of equipment standards for Winter Paralympic sports.

Data Sources Literature searches were performed (in English) during May 2011 using the key words “technology, winter sport, Olympic, and Paralympic” in the computerized databases PubMed, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and Google Scholar. In addition, personal scientific observations were made at several Winter Paralympic Games. The retrieved articles were screened and assessed for relevance to the biological, biomechanical, and sport medicine aspects of equipment.

Main Results There are 3 key areas in which technology has influenced sports performance in Paralympic winter sports, namely, specialized prostheses, crutch skis or outriggers (in lieu of poles), and sport-specific wheelchairs (such as the sit-ski). From a sport medicine perspective, a crucial factor not considered in the standard laboratory test of mechanical efficiency is the influence of the human-equipment connection, such as the stump-to-prosthesis interface or the required human-to-wheelchair control. This connectivity is critical to the effective operation of the assistive device. When assessing the efficiency of this equipment, the not-so-obvious, holistic, compensatory factors need to be considered.

Conclusions Assistive equipment is fundamental for a person with a disability to participate and compete in winter sport activities. Although there have been improvements in the mechanical function of some assistive devices, the key issue is matching the residual function of the person with the assistive equipment. Equitable access to this technology will also ensure that the fundamental spirit of fair play that underpins the Paralympic Games is maintained.

University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Corresponding Author: Brendan Burkett, PhD, OAM, FIEAust, Faculty of Science, Health, and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Queensland 4558, Australia (

The author reports no conflicts of interest.

Received September 14, 2011

Accepted November 14, 2011

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.