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Inspiration For Those With Severe Personal Injury

Sep 9, 2008
The run up to the Olympics begins years in advance of the event itself with countries bidding for the right to hold the international event in their country, attracting tourists from around the globe and boosting the country's economy way beyond what it actually costs to stage the event itself.

We have recently seen an impressive display of what the world's athletes can achieve when they pull together with the Olympics in Beijing. The world's finest gathered together to display the physical prowess and the way their achievements have brought them to be the world's best. But what of those people whose passion in life is their sport yet through personal injury are no longer able to participate? Should they just accept their fate and become couch potatoes whilst watching the Olympics on the TV screen?

Absolutely not. In 1948, the Stoke Mandeville Games began. This was essentially for war veterans who had suffered a personal injury to the spinal cord that had left them without the use of their lower limbs. These games proved so successful that they were held again in 1952, this time including war veterans from Holland making the games an international event. It is believed that this was the original pre-cursor for the Paralympics that began in Rome in 1960.

However, the name has taken on a slightly different meaning since 1976 because it's not simply paraplegics that can enter the competition but also those who have suffered personal injury that leaves them with tetraplegia or quadriplegia. These are often conditions a person is left with after suffering a severe spinal cord injury and result in a person being paralysed in either the lower, upper or all limbs.

The categories of disability now covered by those that enter the Paralympics are; amputees, those with cerebral palsy or intellectual disability, wheelchair bound or visually impaired persons. Another, cover-all, category is that of Les Autres. This encompasses any personal injury or disability that results in deformities, dwarfism, MS or some such disability.

The Paralympics has proved a highly popular goal for those with disabilities to aim towards. From its inception with four hundred athletes to the latest event with 3,806 competitors, it just goes to show what an inspiration this event is. It is a well documented fact that mind over matter is a strong influence on the human body and while it may not be a cure-all it will certainly instil the will to continue with a worthwhile life.

For those who have never seen the Paralympics, we're not talking about simple table tennis tournaments here. Summer sports cover many categories including; archery, cycling, rowing, swimming, athletics, football, sailing, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis. The winter games will cover sports like skiing, ice hockey and wheelchair curling among other sports.

Adaptations are made to allow for the disability or the equipment involved to assist the athlete but these are truly competitive sports requiring great energy and stamina, even more than an able bodied athlete would need to muster, given the added difficulties that need to be overcome.

Disabilities to the degree that would allow a participant to make it the Paralympics are brought about by various reasons, from car accidents to medical negligence, from birth defects to sporting accidents. It simply goes to show that there is always something worth pushing on for and it gives hope to those who don't wish to participate that much can be achieved, even with such difficulties to overcome.
About the Author
Sports expert Catherine Harvey looks at how those who have suffered a personal injury can go on to take part in worldwide sports events.
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