I’ve had a Spinal Cord Injury. Will I Ever Play Sports Again?

December 9, 2016 | 6:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

If you recently sustained a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis you probably have a lot of questions. It may seem impossible to go back to any sort of normal life now that you are a wheelchair user. The bad news is that there are some things that will always be more difficult as a wheelchair user. For example, traveling by airplane will require extra planning on your part because you need to bring equipment along and may have to make special arrangements to get you and your wheelchair on the plane. The good news is that there are ways to adapt many of the activities you did before to be wheelchair friendly. For example, if you were a very active person before your injury you may wonder if you will ever play sports again. The answer depends on your type of injury and your reasons for playing sports in the first place.

  • Your ability to play sports depends on your injury.

The term ‘spinal cord injury’ is a broad term that describes varying degrees of injuries. For example, spinal cord injuries can be ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’. A complete spinal cord injury means that your brain cannot send any signals to the areas below the injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury means that some signals can get through although they may not be enough to return complete function. In addition, the location of your injury impacts your ability to move. Oftentimes, the areas below the injury are impacted. An injury high up on your spinal cord could impact your ability to walk, use your arms, and even breathe. Knowing what type of injury you have is the first step in determining whether you will play sports again. If you have a complete spinal cord injury that paralyzed you from the neck down then it is going to be difficult to find any type of physical sport in which you can participate. However, an incomplete injury that only impacts your legs will allow you to play sports that largely rely on the use of your hands and arms.  

  • Consider what you gained from playing sports before your injury.

There are multiple reasons for playing sports such as physical fitness, the satisfaction of working toward a goal and achieving it, and being part of a team. What motivated you to play sports before your injury? Perhaps you valued the comradery that came with being on a team. You can still achieve that feeling of being part of a team even if you have a spinal cord injury that prevents you from playing sports. For example, you can join a team that does some type of activity that requires you brain instead of your body. Technology allows people to connect over common interests without the need to be physically involved. These types of situations also allow you to work toward goals with others.

If you still have some use of your upper body then there are multiple sports that you can participate in. Racquet ball, tennis, and basketball can all be adapted for a wheelchair user. In fact, there are entire sports leagues just for participants who are wheelchair users. Life is going to be different now that you have a spinal cord injury but do not automatically give up on the things that made you happy before. Connect with others who have been through your situation and find out how they adapted their old activities to fit their new way of life.  

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