Physically Impaired Athletes Find Strength and Independence Through Adaptive Sports

MedStar Health – It’s How We Treat People.

Twice a week, you’ll find 67-year-old Dan Evans at the gym. Like any gym-goer, he works up a good sweat as his trainer guides him through his workout of core exercises, resistance training, and circuit training. Before heading home, he chats with his gym family, the same folks he sees every week.

But Evans isn’t your typical gym client, and this is no ordinary gym.

In 2007, Evans suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis of his lower extremities. As he was finishing the last of his physical therapy sessions a few years ago, he recognized he would need to find a way to continue exercising and building his strength.

“If it were left to me to exercise on my own at home, it wouldn’t get done,” he says. “I was happy to find out that there was a program that could help me continue making progress.”

The Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program, run by the specialists at MedStar Health, was created to give patients a fitness resource beyond the rehabilitation services they receive after discharge from the hospital.

The program helps patients with physical disabilities and neurological impairments build strength and improve functional abilities, giving them the necessary support to live an independent and fulfilling life. Available to anyone with a disability at no cost, participants can choose from a variety of fitness classes, as well as a range of recreational and competitive adaptive sports, including wheelchair basketball, quad rugby, cycling, rowing, bocce ball, and others.

Understandably, the program is providing participants more than the obvious physical benefits. Most notably, they are finding community and moral support from both their peers and coaches.

"We’ve seen many people come in for the first time with their heads down, who just want to get their workout done and go home," says Harsh Thakkar, a spinal cord injury coordinator. "Then after a while, they are fully engaged and confident with their heads held high."

Evans can relate.

“The strength and endurance I’m building is giving me the ability to stay independent, and that’s vital,” he says. Evans credits the program with giving him the stamina to wheel himself throughout his Washington, D.C., neighborhood with ease. “I feel like I can do anything.”

At MedStar Health, we believe that rehabilitation goes beyond building just physical strength. We’re proud to give patients a community where they can also build confidence, find independence, and hold their head high.

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