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Disability Does Not Mean Exclusion from Sports

Disability Does Not Mean Exclusion from Sports

Disability is often seen as a limitation but like any limitation, it can be overcome. There are plenty of people who have broken the barriers placed in their way and found success and an active lifestyle. Sports, adventure and gruelling tests of endurance are all par for the course. There are many sportspersons who have remained active despite severe and debilitating injuries.

Disabled Sports (parasports or adaptive sports) have been around since as early as 1911 and over time, they evolved, to include various disabilities such as loss of senses, loss of mobility and intellectual impairment. Football, Basketball, Long Jumps and Rowing are just a few of the sports that have been adapted for the differently abled. Skydiving, mountain climbing and scuba diving that have been achieved by people with disabilities.

Here are some of the sports and adventure activities available to those with physical disabilities:

Paralympic Sports

The Paralympics was started post World War 2 due to the number of injured left behind in the aftermath. Ex-military personnel and civilians were both encouraged to participate in sports as a step in their rehabilitation programs. This program soon grew in strength and ultimately became a competitive event. Each sport is categorized based on 8 types of physical disabilities ranging from Muscle Impairment to Loss of Limbs. Vision Loss and Intellectual Disabilities are also categorized.

“David Bizet – Marathon de Paris 2014″ by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Paralympics include sports like Alpine Skiing, Basketball, Cycling, Equestrian Sports and Judo, to name just a few.

Adventure Sports

While this may be more limited in scope than an international event like the Paralympics, there are still quite a few who participate in adventure sports. Support groups and NGOs like the Wounded Warrior Project provide rehabilitation, training, and opportunities for those with disabilities.

There are also those who take the initiative and continue to pursue what they love despite crippling injuries.

Hugh Herr, an American Rock climber lost both his legs to frostbite. Herr, an associate professor and MIT and Head of the Biomechatronics Research Group there, developed specialized prostheses that allow him to follow his passion as a rock climber. This is what he said when asked on his experience:

“At the beginning of that year society said I was broken. One year later I had surpassed my pre-amputation climbing abilities and done climbs no climber had ever done.

Bethany Hamilton, a surfer and shark attack survivor returned to the seas and professional surfing soon after recovering from the attack which took her left arm.

Other Sports

These are not the only sports events available for those with disabilities. There are many local, national and international organizations that encourage and provide opportunities for the disabled to embrace their inner athletes. There are Triathlon Competitions, Cross-Country Events like Running and Cycling and Swimming Competitions. The possibilities are many. There are also advanced prosthetics available for those who lead active lifestyle.

There are just a few things to keep in mind. It’s a good idea to consult your doctor and prosthetist before stepping into the world of sports. There are many things to be aware of; especially when it comes to limitations. Discuss the possibilities of overcoming them and what precautions you need to take before exploring the world of disabled sports.

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    Passive Upper Extremity Prosthetic

    Bionics: The future of prosthetic technology?

    Bionics: The future of prosthetic technology?

    Bionics is defined as the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms. This, while not limited to creating prosthetics has definitely made its mark. The term “bionic” was first coined in 1958 by Jack E. Steele. There have been many biomechanical advancements made over the past decade. Constant upgrades and developments have been happening. New designs, technologies and ground-breaking research have gone into making prosthetics increasingly functional, overcoming the difficulties users of artificial limbs face. Prosthetic limbs have now evolved beyond being little more than shaped pieces of wood or metal. Prosthetic technology has also diversified into creating artificial eyes and prosthetic organs. New developments also allow prosthetic users to touch and hold objects, experience a full-range of motion and do anything they could do with their natural limbs.

    3D Printing has also left its mark on the world of prosthetics. 3D printing is a sustainable technology that can quickly and easily create inexpensive yet functional prosthetics. New prosthetics can also mimic natural movements by tracking muscular or nerve activity.

    Prosthetics for activities like sports have also been developed or are being perfected. Devices like powered full-body frames that can help paraplegics walk are also in development. These fully-powered frames, also called exoskeletons, could eventually replace walkers, crutches and orthotic devices like the Reciprocating Gait Orthosis (RGO).

    There is now equal emphasis is on quality, functionality and comfort. Advanced seating technologies like suction pumps and silicon linings have made prosthetics more comfortable to wear in the long-run. The use of new-age materials like carbon-fibre and lightweight alloys have made lives easier for.

    Research is also being conducted into neural technology that is, connecting to the mind via technology to allow functions that might have physical or environmental limitations. Recently, a quadriplegic, as part of a study conducted By the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) flew an F-35 jet via a simulator using nothing but her mind. A pair of neural transmitters converted her thoughts into computer commands, allowing her to fly the plane. Here’s the kicker: The participant in the study, Jan Scheuermann has never flown a plane before.

    Prosthetic technology however, is not a standalone development. Various sciences and fields of study have been involved. Engineering, medical knowledge, the study of biological processes and even psychology have played a part. Advancements in computing, smaller, more efficient motors and batteries that last longer have aided prosthetic development. It remains to be seen how these developments will play out, though these advanced prosthetics have already proved their worth. Where this will lead to in the future remains to be seen.

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      Stress: Causes, Effects and Treatments

      Stress: Causes, Effects and Treatments

      Stress is a constant worry these days and is quickly becoming one of the most common psychological conditions. Fast-paced lifestyles and increased lifestyles, along with environmental factors are leading to an increase in stress levels among the population.

      However, stress can be combated with awareness of its causes, symptoms and treatments. Read on to find out more.

      Causes of stress: Causes of stress are divided into both internal and external factors.

      External factors:

      • Major Changes/ Upheavals in Life
      • Financial Worries
      • Overwork
      • Family Troubles
      • Relationship Factors
      • Environments (pollution and crime)
      • Social issues

      Internal factors:

      • Unhealthy attitudes
      • Insecurity
      • Health issues
      • Beliefs
      • Emotional Trouble

      Now that we have seen some of the common causes of stress, let us take a look at the effects of stress. Stress affects everyone in different ways. It could be as a drive to overcome the stress or destructive habits like smoking as a coping mechanism. Stress could also lead to anxiety or chronic depression.

      Stress leaves both visual and subtle signs that can be recognized.

      Signs that you have Stress

      • An inability to focus
      • Constant negativity
      • Anxiety
      • Trouble with memory
      • Sudden changes in mood
      • Short temper
      • Being unable to relax
      • Low self-esteem
      • Behavioural changes
      • Isolation
      • Procrastinating
      • Developing nervous tics

      There is no need to worry even more. There are many to manage, if not completely eliminate stress other than relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking and drinking habits like overeating. There are many healthy options for dealing with stress.

      Avoiding and Treating Stress

      Help Yourself: Stress can be managed by making a conscious effort to improve your mood. A healthy lifestyle can help prevent and manage stress. A regular exercise routine, a healthy diet and positive coping mechanisms are very helpful in dealing with stress.

      Find a hobby: Finding a way to keep occupied, like a hobby can help relax the body and mind. Doing something you enjoy can help you gain peace of mind. Activities like writing, gardening or painting help.

      Therapy: In cases where dealing with stress by oneself doesn’t seem to be helping, there are options like therapy. Talking to a counselor or psychologist helps in dealing with stress. Talking to a counselor can also help identify the root cause of the stress and help come to terms with and overcoming it.

      Medication: In cases of excessive stress, anxiety or depression, there are medications that can help lower stress levels by controlling the body’s responses. Medicines that help reduce hypertension and anxiety are used in the treatment of stress.

      Take Time to Relax: Taking some time out to relax helps immensely in dealing with stress. Activities like listening to music or meditating are a good way to de-stress.

      Laugh: Laughter is definitely the best medicine when it comes to dealing with stress. Laughing leads to a release of endorphins, which promote good feelings and stave off stress.

      Being aware of stress goes a long way in preventing and dealing with it effectively. Knowing about the negative effects of stress and how it affects the body also helps stay healthy.

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        Exercises for the Indoors

        Exercises for the Indoors

        Sometimes, it’s impossible to head out of the house for a walk, jog or any other exercise. This could be due to the weather, or even seasons. Cold, heat, rain or snow can make going outdoors for exercise practically impossible. With the mercury rising in summer, exercising outdoors can have a host of negative effects like sunstroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion. So, when it’s impossible to exercise outdoors, there is still the indoors. Either in the gym or at home, indoor workouts can be just as effective as exercising outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, working out indoors does not restrict from any types of exercises, whether it’s for building muscle or slimming down and gaining muscle tone or strength. Exercises are broadly classified into two categories, based on what they involve and the benefits they offer.

        Cardiovascular Exercises: Cardiovascular exercises are exercises like running or cycling. Cardiovascular training boosts endurance and stamina, as well as improves blood circulation. Cardio, as it’s popularly called also helps burn calories and fat, which makes it a very good routine for losing weight.

        Running or Cycling: Running and cycling are good cardiovascular exercises. These exercises can also be performed indoors. For running, there are exercises like jogging in place. There is also equipment available. There are treadmills for indoor running and stationary bikes for cycling indoors.

        Skipping: Skipping or jump-rope is a great cardiovascular work-out that improves stamina, endurance and also helps burn calories. All you need is a jump-rope. This exercise can also be performed indoors with enough room.

        Strength-training: As the name suggests, strength training focuses on increasing strength. Strength training can be focused in two ways, core strength and muscle building. Strength training is further divided based on its focus. Calisthenics primarily focuses on building core strength while weight-training’s primary focus is increasing muscle mass.

        Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and, keeping your spine straight, lower into a sitting position so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle to the floor. Squats improve leg health and strengthen the calf and thigh muscles. There are also variations on the standard squat such as using weights, a wall for support or a medicine ball.

        Push-ups: Push-ups are a standard exercise for improving core strength and improving muscle tone. Push-ups strengthen the arms, legs, back, shoulders and boost core strength as well. Again, there are many variations that target other muscle groups like close-handed or diamond push-ups. Push ups can also be performed against a wall or using a medicine ball. Start with lying on your stomach on the floor with your hands slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Brace your feet against the floor and push yourself up. Remember to keep your back straight. Do ten repeats as a set. Complete at least three sets.

        Pull-ups: Pull-ups are a great callisthenic exercise for building core strength and muscle tone. Pull-ups also help strengthen the back and shoulder muscles. For pull-ups, all you need is a sturdy bar that can support body weight. Stand with your feet slightly spread and grab onto the bar with both hands in an overhand grip. Pull yourself up till your nose is level with bar while keeping your back straight.

        There are many more exercises that can be done indoors, with or without equipment like lunges and crunches, as well as other exercise forms like yoga, pilates or martial likes Tai Chi. The options are endless. It is completely possible to get a complete workout at home, if you want to lose weight, burn fat or just get in shape.

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          Foot Problems and How to Prevent Them

          Foot Problems and How to Prevent Them

          Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for everybody, as is regular exercise. A regular exercise routine improves health, muscle control, improves circulation and prevents a majority of lifestyle diseases. This is even more important when dealing with limited mobility, either due to accidents or other disabilities.

          While exercise is part of the rehabilitation process, maintaining it even after completing the recovery process is necessary. Some of the common conditions related to sedentary lifestyles are heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and neurological conditions. While exercise helps with these conditions, traditional exercise might be beyond the scope of people with limited mobility and the differently abled. Here is where adapted exercises come in. Adapted exercises are routines specially designed by fitness experts as a way for the differently abled to maintain their health and build up strength. These exercises also promote health in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative conditions as well.

          Categories of Adaptive Exercises

          Cardiovascular Training: These exercises improve circulation, heart health and endurance. Here are a few examples of adapted cardio exercises. Good examples of these exercises are aquatic exercises, which help increase endurance and stamina due to the resistance of water. Aquatic exercises like water aerobics are a great way for people with spinal or limb problems. Wheelchair sports also help increase endurance and strength.

          Upper body and core strength is really important. Training with weights, resistance bands and medicine balls help improve strength and core fitness.

          Strength Training: These exercises promote muscle building and improve balance. Upper body and core strength is really important. Training with weights, resistance bands and medicine balls help improve strength and core fitness. Stomach pumps, seated crunches and seated twists are good examples of strengthening exercises. Isometric exercises also help.

          Adaptive Training with a medicine ball

          Flexibility Exercises: These exercises improve balance, range of motion and reduce pain and stiffness. They also make it easier to perform certain actions with difficult ranges of motion. These exercises also prevent muscle contraction. Exercises like Yoga and Pilates can be adapted to performing them from a chair.


          For any workout, there are always precautions and steps that can prevent strain, overwork or things that can negatively affect health. These are some basic precautions to take before beginning a workout.

          Consult a physician and a trainer before beginning an exercise routine. They help identify good exercises and prevent serious problems.

          Start slowly and slowly increase the workout intensity to prevent unnecessary strain and injury. Don’t push past your limits too quickly. Take time to adjust before increasing your routine.

          Keeping hydrated is very important as a lot of fluids are lost during exercise.

          Stop exercising in case of pain and consult your physician.

          Avoid exercises that can aggravate an injury.

          Find a helper who can supervise and assist when you’re exercising.

          The one thing to remember when exercising though, is to keep motivated. There might be times when you get discouraged, or face interruptions to your routine due to ill health or other reasons. It’s important to get back into the routine as soon as possible. So get out there and begin a workout that keeps you healthy!

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            Upper Extremity Prosthetics

            Five Things to Consider when Buying a Prosthetic

            Five Things to Consider when Buying a Prosthetic.

            Getting a prosthetic is a very involved process. Once the limb has been amputated, the first step is recovery, so that the surgical scar heals properly. The recovery usually takes at least two weeks, after which the patient can begin the rehabilitation process and practising with the artificial limb. Here are some points to consider, and discuss with your prosthetist before making your choice.

            Comfort: The level of comfort a prosthetic offers is very important, especially when you use it day to day. If the prosthetic causes any kind of irritation or swelling around the residual limb, consult with your prosthetist for an adjustment or a replacement. Comfort while moving is also important.

            Requirements: One question to ask when getting fitted for a prosthetic is ‘What will I use it for?’ Each prosthetic is designed specifically for the person using it. Getting an artificial limb means getting measurements, moulds and making sure the limb fits just right. Artificial limbs are also classified on the level of activity the user is likely to be involved in. The classification, known as the K-Level starts from K-Zero to K-4, which indicates the lifestyle of the person with the prosthetic.

            Environment: The environment is a very important factor to take into account when buying a prosthetic. The weather and the environs can affect your prosthetic and the limb remnant. Dry weather, humidity and cold all affect the way a prosthetic works. Dry skin can cause friction and irritation with the prosthetic and humidity causes sweat to accumulate, causing discomfort. Sand can affect prosthetic joints and salt water can corrode them if exposed. The residual limb and the stump can also be affected if the lining and socks are exposed to the elements and not washed thoroughly after.

            Wearing Schedule: Adjusting to a prosthetic takes time and effort. Once the amputee has healed and completed physical therapy, he or she is fitted with a prosthetic. After the fitting has been completed, many adjustments and refits are made. A prosthetist always prescribes a wearing schedule to ease the patient into using an artificial limb with a minimum amount of wear-time, including standing and walking. The time is slowly increased if the patient shows no signs of discomfort.

            Other Factors:

            Affordability: Some of the more advanced prosthetic limbs can be very expensive. Artificial bionic limbs made for high levels of usage cost more than say, a mechanical limb.

            Availability: Finding a prosthetic that fits the needs of the amputee can vary from location to location. Some places have access to a very limited selection of prosthetics that rarely go beyond basic. Normally, it’s the larger cities that have access to more advanced and specialized prosthetics.

            Upper or Lower Extremities: Upper and Lower Extremity prosthetic limbs have different care and use guides. Lower limbs take a lot more stress and also affect balance than upper limbs. It’s best to consult a prosthetist on maintaining a prosthetic.

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