Rehabilitation of the Adaptive Athlete

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018
Arthur Jason De Luigi (ed.)Adaptive Sports Medicine

8. Rehabilitation of the Adaptive Athlete

Ashley Lazas Puk  and Arthur Jason De Luigi 

MedStar Sports Medicine, Columbia, MD, USA

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, USA



Ashley Lazas Puk (Corresponding author)


Arthur Jason De Luigi

RehabilitationAthletic trainingPhysical therapyAdaptive sports


Although sports can be traced back thousands of years, the concept of adaptive sports has only begun to make traction in the last century. In 1888, the Sports Club for the Deaf was founded in Berlin [1], making it one of the first known organized sports programs for adaptive athletes. By 1940, the Paralympic Movement began taking off, and the first international competition took place in Stoke Mandeville, England [1]. Over the past decade, opportunities and awareness have broadened for athletes with disabilities. This has shown to be beneficial for these athletes on and off the court.

The Progression of the Adaptive Games to Present

The first Stoke Mandeville Games were held in 1948. There were only 16 athletes competing on teams at this time that came from only two rehabilitation facilities [1]. In 1951 there was as many as 126 athletes from 11 different hospitals that came out to participate in four different sports which included archery, netball, javelin, and snooker [1]. In 1952 participation internationally was started [1]. This was a result of the athletes participating in the events being there to represent their individual countries. The transition of the Stoke Mandeville Games allowed disabled athletes to be a part of a sporting movement instead of as a tool for medical purposes [1]. The Stoke Mandeville Games were held in the same location and venue as the Olympics in 1960 [1]. Since then, the Paralympic Games have been held every year and in the same city or country as the Olympics [2]. Then, 29 years later in 1989 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was formed [1]. In 2001 the IPC and International Olympic Committee started working together and decided that both the Olympics and Paralympics would be held in the same city, working under the committee and would be held in the same venues each year [1]. The number of athletes competing in the Paralympics continued to increase throughout the years, and in 1996 Paralympic Games there were 3500 athletes that represented 118 countries [2]. By 2008 there were a total of 3951 athletes from 148 different countries competing in the Beijing Paralympic Games [1]. Coming second to the Summer Olympics in popularity and viewership was now the Summer Paralympic Games [1]. During this event, worldwide, there were about 3.8 billion viewers [1]. This had increased the awareness of athletes with various disabilities to participate in various sporting events. Today, there are about 4000 Paralympic athletes in the 20 summer sports and 500 Paralympic athletes in the five winter sports every 4 years [3]. There are also about 4500–6000 disabled athletes that participate in organized sports in the United States [2].

Major Contributors to the Movement

There are several significant athletes that have shaped adaptive sports into where it is today. At the Stoke Mandeville Games in England in the 1940s, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist, started encouraging spinal cord injury patients to participate in sports as a form of rehab [1]. Athlete Oscar Pistorius who is a South African double below-knee amputee has been a world record holder in Paralympic running events. He has also recently competed in the London Olympics as well as the Paralympic Games [1]. The case of Pistorius has done a great job worldwide at helping athletes with disabilities show that they are fully capable at succeeding at their sport. Tatyana McFadden was another important individual involved with the Paralympic Movement. Tatyana McFadden was a wheelchair athlete on the United States Paralympic team who was responsible for the passage of the “Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act” in Maryland in 2008 [1]. This law requires that schools allow students with disabilities to participate in physical education classes as well as athletic activities [4]. This law also allows students with disabilities to try out for school athletic teams [4].

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Feb 25, 2018 | Posted by in SPORT MEDICINE | Comments Off on Rehabilitation of the Adaptive Athlete

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