Disability Sport in the UK


Posted on: 23 March 2016 by Geoff Griffiths

Acceptance, tolerance and appreciation of physical and mental abilities that the disabled community possess - some things have definitely changed for the better over the years.

Sport for individuals with some kind of physical impairment has a documented history of over 100 years.  In Berlin for example, it was in the year 1888 that sport clubs for the deaf were established. 

The Paralympics themselves, started back in 1948 as part of a rehabilitation programme for British War veterans - those with spinal injuries .  The initiative began when a neurologist -  Sir Ludwig Guttman; who worked with veterans at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, set up a spinal injuries centre in 1944.

Acknowledging the physical and mental benefits of sport as a tool for rehabilitation and recovery, he set up a specific competition with several other hospitals to coincide with the London Olympics of 1948. The opening day of the Olympics, Guttmann organised a wheelchair archery competition, with injured servicemen and women as the competitors.

During the next Olympics, in 1952, the Dutch joined the games, with their own ex-service men participating - and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.

In 1960 in Rome, the games were renamed the Paralympic Games, and involved 400 athletes from 23 countries. Initially the games were only open to athletes in wheelchairs, however in the 1976 summer games, athletes with different disabilities took part, with the number of athletes rising to 1,600 from 40 countries.  The first Winter Paralympic Games were also held in 1976, in Sweden.  

More recently, the UK has seen a rise in "Inclusive Sports" - whereby rather than segregating people into different categories - people enjoy sports together.  As the image below depicts, there are several ways in which individuals with mental and/or physical limitations can participate in sports, alongside, with, or separately to able-bodied people:











Image Source

As well as different workshops and coaching courses around the country there are inclusive sports communities (like this one in Shrewsbury) and companies who specialise in the design and manufacturing of inclusive sports products, such as hand-bikes

There are also a range of competitions, from inclusive triathlons to different adapted events such as 'racerunning'.  

The benefits of sport are both mental and physical thanks to the socialising, the community, the tolerant and like-minded people involved and the feelings of satisfaction, achievement, the establishment of goals and the perpetual quest for 'mastery' (we all get hooked on sports and hobbies in a sub-conscious attempt to master them).  These things keep us all 'connected' and motivated.

In fact, if you every read the book 'The Happiness Hypothesis' (which I recommend that you do) - socialising is a key factor that contributes to happiness.  In addition, we all need meaning in our lives, whether that be going to work to pay the bills, or training hard for the next competition. 

Finally, even if combat-sports aren't your thing - check out Nick Newell - the Mixed Martial Arts champion with one hand.

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