Next month Stoke Mandeville Stadium is hosting the nationally renowned Inter Spinal Unit Games from 8-12 April 2019, organised by the national Charity for wheelchair sport, WheelPower to transform the lives of disabled people through sport. The highest number of spinal units and participants ever recorded are set to attend this year.
One of WheelPower’s flagship sporting events, the Inter Spinal Unit Games, enables newly paralysed adult patients from 15 spinal units across the country (UK and Ireland) who have sustained a spinal cord injury within the last 12 months, to try and compete in a variety of sporting activities and improve their wheelchair skills, health and fitness. It also supports the mental and physical rehabilitation of participants and is a fun social, confidence building experience.
The Games are set to feature 117 patients this year who will take part in up to 20 sports activities such as Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Tennis, Golf, Athletics, Handcycling and Wheelchair Fencing.
This year, there will be added emphasis on building social interaction and networking between participants who have experienced similar life changing injuries. This is a core part of the Games as the sharing of experiences, tips and advice is hugely important for people coming to terms with their new life after injury.
The benefits do not stop there as it is often the case that participants continue their healthy and active lifestyles after the event, at accessible sporting opportunities local to them in their regions. WheelPower assist them with finding sports they have tried out and taken an interest in at the Games. It is in this way that we keep in contact with the participants becoming an information hub to support them during their life in sport and physical activity.
The Inter Spinal Unit Games exists to promote a lifelong engagement in physical activity and sport, improve mental health, and also provide connections to rehabilitation experts, wheelchair equipment specialists, carers, parents and staff trainers.
Last year PC Kris Aves, one of those injured in the London Bridge terror attack, attended the Inter-Spinal Unit Games and said: “Sport is a big, big thing and it’s worked for me, is still working for me and I think it will work for everyone else.”
Previous participant John Bowen said: “I had a heart attack 20 foot off the floor up a ladder when I was decorating, so I hit the floor with a big impact – a concrete floor fractured my neck and severed my spine, then I died for 20 minutes.
“Luckily enough I died in the presence of a midwife and the next door neighbour was a GP, who had just had a refresher course in CPR.”
Speaking about being asked to join in at the ISUG Games, John said: “As soon as I was asked I said yes straight away.”
At this year’s event, we are set to have former Paralympians coaching the participants including Alan Sherriff and Justine Moore (Wheelchair Fencing), Louise Sugden (former GB wheelchair basketball player), and Gordon Perry, former GB Wheelchair Basketball player and the first winner of the wheelchair event in the London Marathon.
Gordon Perry commented on how impactful this event is for the nation: “Here at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, WheelPower have everything you need to provide for access to a wide variety of sports all on one site. I get great enjoyment from seeing how people improve their lives through sport – it’s a fantastic effect!”
Fleur O’Reilly from Salisbury is attending this year’s Inter Spinal Unit Games. She said: “Before my injury my husband and I were cave divers, we loved hiking, and travelling, we were learning to fly gliders with the aim of getting private pilots licenses.
“Obviously becoming a paraplegic has had a fundamental impact on our lifestyle. It feels like life is only just starting again now. I’m hoping that with the games I’ll gain some more confidence and try some new things.”
Coloplast UK are the proud sponsors of WheelPower, enabling more disabled people to enjoy leading active and healthy lives.
Coloplast develop products and services with a focus on continence, urology and wound care that make life easier for people with intimate healthcare needs.
Tim Mercer, Head of Marketing at Coloplast, said: “Around 80% of people will experience continence problems following a spinal cord injury. As a result, bladder and bowel management becomes one of the top three concerns for people living with a spinal cord injury.
“At Coloplast we share a passion to make a real difference to people’s quality of life. By creating and delivering life-changing products and services we enable users to live the life they want to lead.
“We are really excited to be sponsoring this years’ Inter Spinal Unit Games inspiring newly injured people with hope and confidence.”
Ollie Buncombe, Sports Development Officer comments on what an inspiring event this is for newly paralysed people: “The Inter Spinal Unit Games provide a fantastic opportunity for individuals with a spinal cord injury to discover activity and sport after injury. The Games provide the opportunity to meet with people in a similar situation and share tips and experiences for how to come to terms with their new life.
"The Games provide the perfect platform to discover new sport and physical activity opportunities but also promote social interaction and a sharing of knowledge. From the first to the last day it is possible to see a real change in the participants, demonstrating the really transformative work these Games can have on people’s lives.”