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Adaptive Sports and the Warrior Athlete

Chu, Constance R., MD*; Diaz, Robert, MD; Syrop, Isaac P., MD

Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy Review: June 2019 - Volume 27 - Issue 2 - p 41
doi: 10.1097/JSA.0000000000000245
Editorial
Free

*Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford

Department of Orthopedics, Kaiser Santa Clara Sports Medicine, Santa Clara, CA

Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Constance R. Chu, MD, 450 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063.

The numerous benefits of regular physical activity in the general and disabled population have been well documented. Individuals with disabilities are at heightened risk for the negative physical and mental health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. While promoting regular physical and recreational activity in the disabled population was a monumental challenge in the past, there is growing interest and awareness for adaptive sports. This is due in part to advances in prosthetics and robotics that have enabled severely injured warriors to return to physical activity and sports. While significant challenges remain, the rehabilitation and reintegration of wounded warriors through adaptive sport have garnered public recognition at both the local and national level and focused new attention on events such as the Paralympic Games.

The emergence of the modern Paralympic Games began with Dr Ludwig Guttmann. After World War II, there was an increase in war veterans and civilians with physical impairments. Dr Guttmann opened a spinal cord injury center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain to serve this population first in rehabilitative sports. This later progressed to competitive sports. Dr Guttmann then organized the first Stoke Mandeville Games for wheelchair athletes at the London 1948 Olympic Games. In subsequent years, this event became known as the Paralympic Games.

In the United States, veteran adaptive athletes also have the ability to participate in veteran programs such as the National Veteran Wheelchair Games. The mission of these games is to promote and enhance the quality of life and independence among the disabled veteran population with conditions ranging from spinal cord injury to amputation through wheelchair sports and recreation. The National Veteran Wheelchair Games will celebrate their 39th year in 2019 at Louisville Kentucky. The event takes place at a different location annually to expose new veterans and communities to the excitement of the games with the mission of strengthening support for veterans.

Through these collections of scholarly reviews on adaptive sports and warrior athletes, we hope for our readers to gain an appreciation that adaptive sports not only provide an outlet for competition but also an avenue for social inclusion and community reintegration. Adaptive sports thus serve as both medicine and community. In contrast to the general population, athletes with war injuries may also carry emotional and psychological wounds sustained on the battlefield. Adaptive sports offer physical and social benefits that can assist in coping with these unique challenges. Through overcoming physical limitations to compete again, athletes regain the confidence and power to address other individual challenges.

The increasing popularity of adaptive sports, the Paralympics, and the National Veteran Wheelchair Games present opportunities to gain knowledge on how sports participation benefits participants and communities. Research on various issues in adaptive sports populations remains limited. The need for further research on injuries, barriers to participation, mental health issues, and health disparities is clear. Whether through injury, prolonged inactivity, or aging, there comes a point when each of us may benefit from adaptive sports.

It has been a privilege to contribute to this edition of Sports Medicine Arthroscopy Review. We are thankful for all the authors and their efforts in this issue to promote the awareness and uniqueness of adaptive sports.

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