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Let the Games Begin! Sports and Rehabilitation After a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury Survivor, Advocate, Beauty & Fashion Influencer
02/22/19  3:25 PM PST
Sports and Rehabilitation

 “If there is one thing I have learned, particularly in my life as an athlete, it is that our limits may not be where we think they are. And, even when we think we’ve finally reached them, the next time we go there exploring we often find that they’ve moved again.” Chrissie Wellington

Reading this excerpt from the memoir of the world’s premier female Ironman athlete, Chrissie Wellington –A Life without Limits: A world Champion’s Journey, I instantly reflected on a period of my life when I felt as though all limits were placed upon me. The day I became paralyzed was one of the darkest periods of my Life.  After going through such personal loss, it’s difficult to believe you will have the ability or find joy with anything in life ever again.  

I was raised in a household of mostly boys and around sports for most of my childhood. We watched, played and talked sports on our free time. My parents couldn’t afford to have their three children on a sports team so we would gather the kids from the neighborhood build our groups and played tag-football, baseball, basketball, climbed trees and rode our bikes every day after school until the sun came down.  When I started to come into my teenage years and became an adult, my participation in sports was not as much. Although life got busy, I was working and became a mother, my love and interest in athletics remained the same. I was still an athlete at heart.  

After becoming paralyzed I didn’t know which direction my life would take. I was trying to heal on so many levels I didn’t know how or where to even begin. Eight months after my spinal cord injury an opportunity arose. I was invited with other recently injured Spinal cord injury patients to attend an adaptive ski trip to Colorado. At first I was hesitant to accept the invitation because I had never skied before, not as an able-body or disabled.  Never had I traveled using a wheelchair or had ever seen someone travel in one and last, I was going alone without a personal caretaker. There were many reasons to be nervous, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t allow to pass by and I accepted the invitation. It turned out to be the one of the best decision I made in my recovery.

My adaptive ski trip to Crested Butte, CO was the beginning of my new active, adaptive-lifestyle. During this recreational trip I became familiar again with my “inner-child”, the fearless, competitive little girl I used to be when I played sports growing up. I attacked the slopes with excitement, bravery and determination.  I just needed to face my new challenge-life. Traveling, learning adaptive activities and exploring new boundaries taught me to push past my limits.  Teach me to become a stronger woman and to learn how to have fun with new people in innovative ways.  Not only was I overcoming traveling independently but I was also a part of a unity, a team that would become a tremendous support system.

  “Recreation and adventure enable people to explore themselves, to take risks, to get the blood going, to gain a fresh perspective.”-Paralysis Resource Guide

There are so many benefits to someone’s recovery from participating in recreational sports from health and wellness to physical benefits.  Physical challenges only strengthen and bring forth your finest abilities. When limitations are set upon us, we learn to adapt, find strategies and become resourceful.  Sporting and recreational activities will test your capabilities, perseverance and show you what the human spirit is really made of. 

Recently, it was very exciting to see high-profile athlete Kobe Bryant and the Challenged Athletes Foundation collaborate in “Heroes of Sport” campaign.  It brings more awareness to recognize the heart of athletes which is the same regardless of ability. This year’s Super Bowl Microsoft’s X-Box commercial highlighted the importance of accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities who also like to play games. The commercial featured multiple kid gamers with disabilities using an adaptive controller and at the end of the commercial there is a message, “When everybody plays, we all win.” From an athlete at heart and for the love of sports, this display of inclusion and disability awareness couldn’t have made me more proud and excited about the future in adaptive-sports. I challenge you to find a sport, activity, or to try something new to motivate and challenge your human spirit. You will discover a genuine joy and many more treasures found inside you.

Find more articles about being active after a spinal cord injury:

Shield HealthCare | Stronger with Shield


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