Disabled men playing wheelchair basketball

Benefits of Sport Following a Spinal Cord Injury

Whether you’re a spectator or participant, sport has the ability to bring people from all walks of life together.

In many countries sport can be an obsession. The USA has its baseball fanatics. In India, the much-loved game of cricket is a huge part of many people’s lives. Across the world, supporters watch with bated breath as their soccer team takes to the field every weekend.

As well as keenly watching sport, you will find people in every corner of every town and city who enjoy playing sport.

Getting involved in sport is not only good for your physical health, it has huge emotional and mental health benefits as well. The good news is that sport can be played at all levels and there’s something to suit everyone.

You may think that having a spinal cord injury would make it impossible to take part in many sports. However, as the Paralympics have shown us, sport can be enjoyed and played at an extremely high level by individuals with a wide range of disabilities.

But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to participate in sport with a disability such as paralysis. There are numerous sports to enjoy following a spinal cord injury, regardless of whether or not the individual played them prior to their injury.

Here we take a closer look at the benefits of sport for individuals with a spinal cord injury and which ones are the most popular around the world.

Benefits of Playing Sport Following a SCI

There are numerous physical and mental health benefits in taking part in sport following a spinal cord injury. Just because someone is in a wheelchair and no longer has the full range of mobility they used to have, it doesn’t mean they can’t take part.

Disabled sports have developed dramatically over the last couple of decades, partly due to more media attention but also because of greater connectivity between groups who want to engage.

Basketball and tennis are two of the most popular wheelchair sports at the moment and there are many teams and clubs both in the USA and elsewhere around the globe.

Adaptive sports technology means there are fewer obstacles in the way of individuals who want to take part, whether it’s at an amateur or professional level. Taking part in sport improves circulation, strengthens muscles and helps develop better coordination and balance.

It also has some striking mental health benefits, including helping someone cope with anxiety and depression.

Popular Spinal Cord Injury Sports

With a little thought, almost any sport can be made accessible to those with paralysis. Sometimes the rules will differ slightly from the regular format of the sport to allow for the use of adaptive sports technology and to take into account the reduced mobility of the participants. But essentially, these adapted sports such as wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball are the same as tennis and basketball.

There are many popular sports in both the USA and around the world where some ingenuity and a good deal of persistence have made a difference for those with disabilities. Here are just a few of the popular adaptive sports that are now regularly played across the globe by people with spinal cord injuries:

Wheelchair Tennis

Disabled woman playing wheelchair tennis

Worldwide, this is one of the most popular adaptive sports and has been played since the mid-1970s. It was first introduced into the Paralympics in 1992 and has remained one of the most watched events ever since. Wheelchair tennis is now also an integral part of Grand Slam tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open.


The buoyancy experienced in water means that it’s a great way to get exercise and feel safe whilst taking part in sport. Assistive technology such as pool lifts are regularly found in many public pools all over the world these days, making it much easier for individuals with a disability such as paralysis to take part in swimming. Swimming is a great way to stay fit and is an example of a discipline which can be performed solo, but it’s also possible to swim in groups and participate in a team sport.

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball close up

Similar to tennis in popularity, this is another sport that has really developed over the years. There are numerous wheelchair basketball leagues across the US, which make sense seeing as basketball is enjoyed by more Americans than any other nationality throughout the world.

Powerchair Football

You might think that soccer would be one sport where someone with a spinal cord injury would be unable to participate in. But this is not the case. Specially designed wheelchairs can allow players to pass the ball from person to person, allowing them to enjoy ‘the beautiful game’ without needing mobility in their lower limbs. This sport is going from strength to strength in terms of populatiry and there are now 250 teams competing in tournaments across the USA.