Lives transformed through wheelchair sport at the 2022 Inter Spinal Unit Games
Over 80 recently injured participants from 11 different spinal units came together at the birthplace of Paralympic Movement, Stoke Mandeville Stadium for the return of the WheelPower Inter Spinal Unit Games.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that this life changing event hasn’t taken place since 2019, so this year’s Games took on even greater significance for everyone who took part. Hosted by WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, the Inter Spinal Unit Games form an essential part of many spinal patients’ rehabilitation following injury and provide a fantastic opportunity to discover the many benefits of sport and activity.
A total of eleven teams travelled to Buckinghamshire from across the United Kingdom to take part in the Games, and for many patients this was the first time away from the unit. The teams taking part included Middlesbrough, Hobbs Rehabilitation, Sheffield, London, Southport and Belfast, and as in previous years the camaraderie and social aspect of the event was just as important as the sport itself.
During a full week of activity at Stoke Mandeville the 80 participants enjoyed 16 sports, supported by qualified coaches from a variety of National Governing Bodies. The sports on offer included Wheelchair Basketball, Table Tennis, Wheelchair Rugby, Tennis, Canoeing, Wheelchair Racing, Shooting, Hand Cycling and Wheelchair Fencing to name a few. After taking part in taster sessions over the first few days the participants then competed across a number of sports to earn points for their units, before a team winner was declared. After a brilliant week it was the team from the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury who took home the trophy in 2022.
Helen who was representing the Southport Spinal Unit comments, “I have felt on top of the world this week at the Inter Spinal Unit Games. I haven't been around many wheelchair users back in Manchester and coming to Stoke Mandeville feels like I am home. I’ve done so much that I didn’t think I’d be good at and I feel really proud of myself and my abilities.”
Tony from Chester-le-Street is still an inpatient at spinal unit in Middlesbrough, “Earlier this year I sustained multiple fractures to my spine, as well as broken elbows and a broken wrist following a motocross accident. I have a long journey ahead but coming here has been so inspirational and has given me more of an insight about what you can do. Sport has always been a massive part of my life and this event has given me the confidence to crack on and find more opportunities near me.”
Mohammed from Birmingham was injured after a tree fell on him whilst cycling, comments, “The Games have been a real eye opener. I was an active guy before my injury and it been good to try out lots of things I’ve never done before like wheelchair rugby and athletics. Life’s not over when you have a spinal cord injury and after going through a bad time it makes you really appreciate the positive moments, such as coming to events like this.”
Martin McElhatton, WheelPower Chief Executive said: “It has been wonderful to see so many recently paralysed people discovering the physical and wellbeing benefits of sport at the 2022 Inter Spinal Unit Games. After a challenging couple of years, it has been fantastic to have one of flagship events return to the calendar and we hope that everyone who joined us this week now has a better understanding of the sporting opportunities available to them following a life changing injury.”
“We couldn’t host this event without the support of our sponsors, volunteers and amazing coaches who have helped us to motivate and encourage everyone who has taken part in this positive and transformative week at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. As a charity we hope that this event has inspired them all to lead a more active life through movement, physical activity and sport in the future.”
Find out more about the Inter Spinal Unit Games and WheelPower here.