Man playing wheelchair tennis

Exercise Following an SCI: 10 of the Best Sports to Play

Sustaining a serious spinal cord injury (SCI) will undoubtedly be a life-changing event for those affected. Whether the individual was a big sporting fan before their injury or not, the great news is that there are plenty of activities to take part in that are specifically aimed at those with SCIs.

Staying active following a spinal cord injury is important and participating in a sport is a great way to achieve this.

Not only can sport have an impact on physical health but it also helps with mental wellbeing as well.

Here we take a look at just some of the wheelchair sports and other activities which can be great to get involved in.

1. Swimming

Swimming is one of the most effective all-round exercises. It works on the heart and blood flow as well as helping build upper body strength. The good news is that it can also be a great option for individuals with a spinal cord injury.

The support of the water gives swimmers a sense of independence and freedom from equipment such as a wheelchair. It’s no wonder that swimming is a highly popular disabled sporting past-time.

2. Tennis

Wheelchair tennis is now an important part of not only the Paralympics but major tournaments such as Wimbledon and the French Open. This is one of the most popular wheelchair sports and there is a lot of infrastructure in place to play for fun and competitively in numerous countries around the world.

3. Basketball

Similar to tennis, basketball is another popular sport for wheelchair users. While it’s got the potential to become highly competitive, it’s one of the longest standing disabled sports, having first been played by World War Two veterans back in the 40s and 50s.

It’s a fast-paced team sport that can build upper body strength and create a brilliant sense of community.

4. Adaptive skiing

Disabled man skiing
Adaptive skiing

The ingenuity of those with the challenge of a spinal cord injury has never really been doubted. For those that prefer a hint of danger and excitement, however, there are a variety of different forms of skiing that can be undertaken by those with a spinal cord injury.

A range of devices can be adapted to accommodate those with an SCI. Upper body strength is important here, as is the ability to react quickly to the landscape.

5. Water skiing

As with skiing on snow, heading onto the water involves using adapted equipment that allows the participant to be hauled behind a boat at high speed.

Competitive water skiing is becoming increasingly popular with enthusiasts performing a variety of different tricks and jumping over obstacles.

6. Wheelchair dancing

For those who want to combine exercise with artistry, wheelchair dancing is another popular pursuit and one that is on the increase in terms of popularity.

Any exercise following a spinal cord injury is important and wheelchair dancing can be done individually, with an able-bodied partner or with another participant in a wheelchair.

7. Cycling

There are a variety of different adaptations that enable disabled individuals to engage in cycling. Most of these involve equipment that has been designed for use with the hands and arms rather than the feet and legs.

Included in the Paralympics for the last twenty years, cycling gives participants independence and the chance to get out on the road.

8. Wheelchair racing

There are a variety of opportunities to race wheelchairs. It’s something anyone can take part in, even those with no previous experience of competitive sports. Pursuits such as 100-meter dashes as well as longer distances like marathons means no area of racing is out of reach. 

9. Weightlifting

Staying active after a spinal cord injury can be challenging but also far from impossible. Weightlifting is one pursuit that lends itself well to those in a wheelchair.

Not only does this kind of activity build good upper body strength, it’s a wheelchair sport that is popular with many people and great for meeting new friends.

10. Golf

Playing disability golf
Golf is a popular sport to play

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the USA and people may be forgiven for thinking that those with spinal cord injuries would be excluded. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The ingenuity of inventors means that there are a some great assistive devices that help those with SCIs get around a golf course. And the good news is that many courses, especially in the US, have facilities for wheelchair users available these-days.

Many Sporting Options

Just because someone has an SCI doesn’t mean they are unable to participate in sports for fun or even take part in competitive activities. Through a mix of sheer inventiveness and imagination, wheelchair sports have developed massively over the last 50 years.

By becoming involved in some kind of sporting activity, individuals with spinal cord injuries can improve their physical well-being and meet new friends along the way.