WheelPower, the national charity championing British wheelchair sport recently brought 92 hospital patients from spinal injury centres across the United Kingdom and Ireland together for the annual Inter-Spinal Unit Games.
Widely recognised as the flagship sporting event for newly injured patients, the Games, which took place between the 25-27 April introduced wheelchair sport to recently paralysed people, many of those living with life changing injuries as a result of an accident or illness that has taken place over the last year.
The participants travelled from as far afield as Belfast and Glasgow to take part in this unique sporting event.
Held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, the games gave many participants their first trip away from hospital after the long journey of rehabilitation. For many, it showed that life does not have to stop after spinal injury and gave them a taste for sport after many months in spinal units.
The participants enjoyed a long weekend experience, all staying in adapted accommodation. They benefited from the guidance of leading wheelchair sport coaches and athletes (many of whom were Paralympians) and got to try all the sports before taking part in the games.
Chris Turner, National Sports Director at WheelPower said:
“The Inter-Spinal Unit Games provided a wonderful opportunity for people from across the UK that have recently had a spinal cord injury to come together and take part in a variety of sporting activities. We know that taking part in sport and physical activity enhances disabled peoples’ quality of life, giving them confidence, improving their well-being and helping to connect them to other people. The stories captured from the participants during the games embodies this fully and provides a starting platform for people to live and enjoy an active lifestyle.
“The camaraderie and new friendships made between the spinal units and patients provided a wonderful backdrop to the competitive nature of the sporting events and the race to be crowned the winning Spinal Injury Unit. Our vision is to help transform lives through sport and this event does exactly that, by providing opportunities to introduce disabled people to sport and supporting them to find an activity that they are passionate about and enjoy.”
One such person is 24-year-old Oliver Carpenter, who won the table tennis title.
“Ever since I was a little kid my dad and I played tennis and table tennis, so even in a wheelchair you keep some of that old muscle movement in the arms and hand to eye co-ordination. So it’s nice to get back playing them again,” Carpenter said.
“It’s been amazing, my injury was seven months ago and to come to a place like this and try all these different sports I never thought I’d be trying has been amazing. You meet lots of other people who are also in a wheelchair. It’s nice just to trade tips and ideas and it obviously encourages you to get active again despite the injury.”