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Stroke Smart Magazine

September/October 2007

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Exploring Adaptive Sports

By Candy B. Harrington

There's no doubt about it, sports and recreational activities have a positive effect on both the mind and body — of kids and adults. Not only do they help develop balance and coordination, but they also build self-confidence and help participants develop a positive mental attitude. Some parents even note that activities like score-keeping help their children develop abstract math skills and build short term memory. Scott Dameron, National Programs Coordinator for the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), also notes the health benefits of sports for stroke survivors. “If you've already had a stroke,” reminds Scott, “physical activity can help reduce the risk of another stroke.”

And the good news is, there’s an adaptive sport to suit just about every ability level and personal preference. Craig Kennedy, author of Access Anything; I Can Do That, recommends that first-time participants seek out adaptive sports that have been around longer, as these providers have more experience. At the top of Craig's list are golf, horseback riding, sailing and skiing.

Hal O'Leary, NSCD founder and author of Bold Tracks, agrees that skiing is a good choice for stroke survivors. “We find that skiing tends to be the most dynamic manner in which to introduce individuals who have had a stroke into a recreational program,” says Hal. He also recommends therapeutic horseback riding and the NSCD soccer league.

Operated in a partnership with the U.S. Paralympics, the NSCD soccer league is a good choice for survivors who don't use walkers or wheelchairs. Says Scott Dameron, “The league is appropriate for stroke survivors ages 6 through 18.”

Admittedly, getting kids to participate in adaptive sports programs is a big challenge. "There is so often a mental barrier that one must overcome before participating," says Scott. "I often like to show videos or pictures of other children in our programs to give a newcomer a better perspective of what they can achieve."

Parents can also help out by speaking to their health care providers beforehand to get advice about protective equipment, such as head gear or braces. "Outside of this consultation," says Scott, "the best thing a parent can do is trust the program their child is participating in, but at the same time keep a close eye on any activity that concerns you."

Good resources for finding adaptive sports programs include the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability and Disabled Sports USA. The Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association website also offers some helpful adaptive sports tips for parents.

In many cases, finding an appropriate adaptive sport is just a matter of trial and error. As Craig Kennedy says, “Try as many sports as you can, to find the one that's best for you.”

“Access Anything: I Can Do That!”

National Sports Center for the Disabled
(303) 293-5711

Disabled Sports USA

National Center on Physical Activity and Disability

Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association


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