The Paralympic Movement: using sports to promote health, disability rights, and social integration for athletes with disabilities

Blauwet C, Willick SE.
PM R. 2012 Nov;4(11):851-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2012.08.015.

SOURCE:  Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Competitive sports for people with disabilities has grown rapidly over the past several decades, and opportunities for participation are increasingly available throughout the spectrum from developmental to elite. The Paralympic Games, seen as the pinnacle sporting event that represents the broader Paralympic Movement, has provided a platform to showcase the abilities of people with disabilities while also serving as a catalyst for disability rights through ensuring integration, equality of opportunity, and accessibility of the built environment. Concurrently, media coverage of the Paralympic Games has led to an increased awareness of opportunities for sport participation for individuals with disabilities and, with it, the adjustment of norms regarding expectations for exercise as a component of preventive health. In addition, there is evidence of the power of sports to stimulate confidence, self-efficacy, and a self-perceived high quality of life for individuals with disabilities above and beyond the basic benefits to cardiometabolic fitness. When taken together, the promotion of health, disability rights, and social integration through sports has the power to transform the lives of those who participate and to further stimulate the expansion of opportunities available to the next generation of athletes with disabilities.