Physically Challenged Athletes (Disabled)
More people with disability are taking part in physical activities – virtually all sports are now available. The aspiration of athletes with disabilities is the same as those of athletes in any sport. There are health benefits (physiological and psychological), social benefits for individuals with disability in participation in any type of physical activity and these benefits are no different to the able bodied athletes. Sports are used for rehabilitation, recreational and competitive purposes. Levels of competition varies from just fitness activities, to the ‘Skiing for the Disabled’ programs to the elite competitions of the Paralympics. Legislative initiatives and changing societal attitudes are influencing the increased participation.
Disabled athletes are classified into groups, so that there can be fair competition between athletes that have a similar disability allows athletes to compete at the highest level regardless of individual differences in physical ability.
Disabled categories include – spinal cord injury, wheelchair athlete, intellectual disability, blind, amputee, deaf, cerebral palsy, organ transplant, Les autres others (eg poliomyelitis, muscular dystrophy, small stature).
Those who have had a spinal cord injury and participate in sport have been shown to have greater levels of community integration , indicated the beneficial use of sport as part of a rehabilitation program. Most common injuries are – soft tissue sprains and strains, blisters, lacerations and abrasions; pressure sores/ulcers (especially if sensory loss); arthritis; fractures; head injury. Thermoregulation can also be a problem as a lack of muscle mass to generate sufficient body heat to maintain core temperatures – sweating and control of peripheral circulation may also be impaired. Impairment of intercostal muscle function may affect ventilatory capacity.
Blind athletes compete in a wide range of sports, sometimes with the use of a guide (eg running). The fear of falling may lead to a stiffer posture and a more shuffling gait. Sporting participation can help improve the sense of orientation in space and improve balance. Lower limb proprioception is less in a blind athlete compared to a sighted athlete impact on lower limb biomechanics injury risk due to greater ‘foot slap’.
Cerebral palsy athletes:
These athletes are likely to be at a high injury risk to due altered lower limb biomechanics from proprioception, muscle spasm and deformity.
Athletes with lower extremity amputation:
Prostheses are available that allow running and participation in near to normal sports activity. Different types of prosthesis are generally used for sprinting versus endurance types of activities.