Are you ready to be the next Esther Vergeer?!
In case you are unaware of her, Esther Vergeer is one of the greatest Paralympians of all time. She is retired now, but when she left the wheelchair tennis court, she did so with 470 consecutive winning matches (that’s 10 years having never lost!), 44 Grand Slam titles, and eight Paralympic medals. She is now a nominee for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Even if tennis isn’t your thing, we think staying active through sports is incredible for anyone’s well-being. If you are new to using a wheelchair, finding a sport you enjoy could be an excellent tool in helping you adjust to your new life. Unfortunately, those with disabilities are at a higher risk to suffer from poor mental health. Here’s an illuminating quote from an article by the United Disabilities Services Foundation, “In 2018 specifically, around 17.4 million adults with disabilities experienced frequent mental distress, which was 4.6 times more often than those without disabilities.” To read the full article, click here. People with disabilities are at an elevated risk for suicidal ideations and behavior. These facts are heartbreaking, but the information is valuable. If we are aware of the prevalence of a risk, we can be proactive with preventative behaviors and lifestyle choices. So let’s look at a small selection of the factors that might lead to poor mental health in wheelchair users:
- Isolation: loss of friends/community
- Loss of independence: lowered self-esteem
- Increased risk of lifestyle diseases: diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Yikes! Another hard peak into reality for many people in wheelchairs. But weren’t we talking about sports before we got all doom and gloom? YES! Because participation in adaptive sports is a solution to all of those risk factors listed. Here are some of the astounding benefits of playing sports for wheelchair users:
Sense of Community:
Wheelchair sports create a community of similarly-abled people. Having fun and making friends with people who understand your experience is a powerful antidote to the isolation of having a disability.
When most daily tasks feel difficult, and you can’t do what you once could, it’s very easy to feel down about yourself. Playing a sport, challenging yourself, and seeing yourself improve are all things that boost self-esteem by helping you feel more capable.
Something fun to do:
Chronic boredom weighs heavy on the mind. Having fun and social activity to look forward to is the perfect cure.
We have discussed some of the benefits of exercise before; check out this blog if you missed it. Participating in a sport is a way of strength training and getting your heart rate up that feels like play instead of “working out.” And exercise is very beneficial in the maintenance of chronic illness.
Needing a wheelchair can put you at a higher risk of both mental and physical illness. We want to support your well-being in every way we can. So have we convinced you? Playing a sport can be a medicine for both body and mind. At this point, most sports can be played in a wheelchair. You can find these adaptive sports throughout most of the United States. Here is a great resource for finding adaptive sports organizations in your state. Go play!