Sustaining a spinal injury can bring about significant lifestyle changes, but that does not mean you must give up on sports, hobbies, and other physical activities. Staying active is important to maintaining good physical and mental health, and there is a wide range of pursuits that cater for spinal cord injured people, regardless of your level of injury. This guide explores various adaptive sports and hobbies suitable for individuals with spinal injuries, offering tips and resources to help you maintain an active and fulfilling lifestyle.
Wheelchair sports provide an excellent way for individuals with spinal injuries to stay active, competitive, and social. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of sports can be played with a spinal injury. Some of the most popular wheelchair sports include:
- Wheelchair basketball: adhering to the same rules as able-bodied basketball, wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, high-energy game that offers an excellent opportunity to develop teamwork and upper body strength.
- Wheelchair rugby: also known as "murderball", this full-contact sport, where players have a disability affecting all four limbs, combines elements of rugby, basketball, and handball. Players work in teams of four to carry a ball across the court and score points. It is one of the few wheelchair sports where men and women play alongside each other.
- Wheelchair tennis: played on a standard tennis court, wheelchair tennis follows the same rules as the able-bodied game with one notable exception: the ball is allowed to bounce twice.
- Wheelchair racing: compete in distances ranging from sprints to marathons, this sport is an excellent way to build stamina, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
Water sports can be particularly therapeutic for individuals with spinal injuries, as the buoyancy of water provides support and reduces pressure on joints. Some popular adaptive water sports include:
- Swimming: swimming is a low-impact, full-body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Many pools offer adaptive swim classes and equipment such as flotation devices and pool lifts.
- Sailing: accessible sailing programmes cater to a variety of abilities, with specially designed boats and equipment that allow individuals with spinal injuries to learn sailing skills and enjoy time on the water.
- Canoeing and kayaking: with the use of adapted equipment like outriggers for stability and paddle assists for those with limited grip, individuals with spinal injuries can take part in these sports at various levels of intensity.
Adaptive winter sports
Winter sports offer exhilarating ways to stay active during the colder months. A few examples of adaptive winter sports are:
- Wheelchair curling: a modified version of curling, this sport involves teams of players sliding stones across the ice towards a target while seated in wheelchairs.
- Adaptive skiing: sit-skiing and mono-skiing are popular adaptive skiing options, where skiers use specially designed equipment to navigate the slopes.
- Sledge hockey: also known as para ice hockey, this sport is played using sledges instead of skates, allowing individuals with spinal injuries to participate in this fast-paced, physically demanding game.
Fitness and exercise
Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being, especially for individuals with spinal injuries. Some accessible fitness options include:
- Adaptive yoga: with the use of props and modified poses, adaptive yoga can help improve flexibility, strength, and balance for individuals with spinal injuries.
- Handcycling: handcycles provide an excellent cardiovascular workout and are an accessible alternative to traditional cycling. They can be used for leisurely rides or as a means of competitive racing.
- Seated aerobics: seated aerobic classes cater to a variety of fitness levels and often incorporate resistance bands, hand weights, and other equipment to enhance the workout.
Creative and Leisure Hobbies
Aside from sports, there are numerous creative and leisure hobbies that can be pursued by individuals with spinal injuries. Examples include:
- Painting and drawing: these activities can be a therapeutic outlet for self-expression, and adapted tools and easels can accommodate various abilities.
- Pottery: many pottery studios offer adaptive equipment and classes, allowing individuals with spinal injuries to create functional and decorative pieces.
- Photography: using adapted equipment like tripod mounts and remote triggers, photography can be an enjoyable and accessible hobby.
- Gardening: accessible gardening methods, such as raised beds and vertical gardens, can make it easier for individuals with spinal injuries to enjoy this therapeutic pastime, and adaptive tools make it easier for those with reduced hand function
- Music: playing instruments, singing, or participating in music therapy sessions can be a rewarding and enjoyable way to express yourself and build camaraderie with others.
Finding local clubs and organisations
Connecting with local clubs and organisations can provide support, resources, and opportunities to participate in adaptive sports and hobbies. Consider reaching out to:
- Wheelpower is a national charity dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport. They have information on how to get involved in a huge range of sports and activites, and regularly host taster events
- Local sports clubs: Many towns and cities have sports clubs that offer adaptive sports programmes or can connect you with local resources.
- National organisations like the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and Back Up provide information on activities and events for individuals with spinal injuries.
- Rehabilitation centres: Local rehabilitation centres often have information on adaptive sports and activities, and can provide guidance on the best options based on individual needs.
Tips for Success
Before you get involved in any physical activity, it is important to remember that you could injury yourself further if you do not take the proper measures to prepare beforehand. Consider our following tips for success to keep yourself safe and happy when pursuing physical activities:
- Consult with medical professionals: before starting any new sport or activity, it is essential to consult with your doctor or physiotherapist to ensure it's suitable for your specific needs and abilities.
- Start slowly: gradually build up your activity levels to avoid injury and burnout. Give yourself time to adjust and learn new skills.
- Be patient: progress may be slower than you would like, but it's essential to stay patient and committed to your goals. Remember that everyone's journey is different.
- Connect with others: building a support network of others with spinal injuries can be invaluable for motivation, advice, and camaraderie.
- Focus on what you can do: embrace the activities that you can enjoy and participate in, rather than dwelling on those that are no longer accessible.
Talk to us
If you have sustained a spinal injury that was not your fault, get in touch with our friendly and experienced solicitors today by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online contact form and we will get back to you.