Psychosocial impact of participation in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and Winter Sports Clinic.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the characteristics of individuals who participate in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) and the Winter Sports Clinic (WSC) for veterans with disabilities. In addition, it was of interest to determine how these events had impacted their lives.

METHOD: Participants were recruited at the 20th Winter Sports Clinic, held in Snowmass Colorado and the 26th National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Anchorage, Alaska. Data of interest included demographic, sport participation information, community integration, self-esteem, and quality of life. A secondary data analysis was completed to determine how comparable individuals who attended the NVWG/WSC were to individuals who did not participate in these events.

RESULTS: The 132 participants were a mean age of 47.4 + 13.4 and lived with a disability for an average of 13.4 + 12.1. Participants felt that the NVWG/WSC increased their knowledge of sports equipment (92%), learning sports (89%), mobility skills (84%), and acceptance of disability (84%). The majority of participants stated that the NVWG/WSC improved their life. Of those who participated at the NVWG/WSC, they tended to be more mobile, but have increased physical and cognitive limitations as measured by the CHART when compared to the non-attendees.

CONCLUSIONS: Recommending veterans participate in events such as the NVWG and WSC can provide psychosocial benefits to veterans with disabilities.