Sports and disability.

Participation in recreational and competitive sports at an early age has long been touted as a positive influence on growth and development, and for fostering lifelong healthy lifestyles. The benefits of an active lifestyle include not only fitness, but the promotion of a sense of inclusion and improved self-esteem. These benefits are well documented in all populations, and their importance has been summarized in the recent Healthy People 2010 guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently produced a summary statement on the benefits of activity for disabled children. They note that children with disabilities tend to have an overall lower level of fitness and an increased level of obesity. For this population, developing a lifelong desire to be active can be a simple means for limiting illness and much of the morbidity associated with sedentary lifestyles often associated with disability. For disabled youth, participation in disabled sports programs available nationally and internationally can be an effective means to promote such precepts. The goal of this focused review is to improve the learner’s knowledge of the positive impact that active lifestyles can have on overall health in the disabled youth population and, as a result, modify their practice by incorporating recreational and competitive sport activities as part of improving overall patient care.