Education And Debate

ABC of Sports Medicine: Sport for people with disability

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 04 June 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1500
  1. J C Chawla

    Sport instills self discipline, a competitive spirit, and comradeship.Its value in promoting health, physical strength, endurance,social integration, and psychological wellbeing is of little doubt. It is not difficult to understand why sport is so important for the wellbeing of people with disability.

    For many years disabled people have shown an interest in sport. Although opportunities for certain types of sport were available in the past, it was not until the passage of the Disabled Persons's Employment Act in 1944 that a major initiative was taken in the United Kingdom to provide facilities to enable disabled people to overcome handicaps that arose as a consequence of their disabilities. About the same time Sir Ludwig Guttman introduced sport as an essential part of the management of patients with spinal cord damage. He described the effects of sport on the rehabilitation of people with paraplegia and tetraplegia and stressed that sporting activities enabled them to overcome boredom in hospital and also promoted development of their physical and cardiorespiratory endurance.

    The past five decades have seen an appreciable increase of interest in sport for disabled people not only in people with disability but also in the medical profession, sporting organisations, and the government. In 1978 the Sports Council stated that buildings to which they gave grant aid must provide facilities such as access for disabled people if they were to continue to qualify for aid.

    Sports available for disabled people

    • Existing sport in which disabled people may participate with little or no modification

    • Existing sport that has been modified

    • Sport that has been specially developed

    Beneficial aspects of sport


    A great many sporting activities that can be used for rehabilitation and recreation have become possible for disabled people. Sport is increasingly being used as treatment complementing the conventional methods of physiotherapy. It helps to develop strength, coordination, and endurance. Some sports develop selected …

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