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Winter Paralympic Games Inspire Athletes at Shepherd Center

Hospital sponsors 11 adapted sports teams to provide opportunities for competition and wellness.

With the Winter 2014 Paralympic Games scheduled to open in Sochi, Russia, on Friday, March 7, excitement is building among athletes and fan across the globe.

At Shepherd Center, staff and patients are expecting great things from Team USA, which includes former Shepherd patient Jasmin Bambur, who is competing in alpine skiing. Jasmin, who sustained a T-10 spinal cord injury in a car accident in 2000, got his start in the sport when he participated in an adaptive snow skiing trip with Shepherd Center. (Read his blog here.)

“I thought skiing was the greatest thing I could do, and it got me out of my chair,” Jasmin said.

Jasmin is an example of Shepherd Center’s commitment to the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality, said Shepherd Center sports teams coordinator Matt Edens.

Shepherd was instrumental in organizing the bid for the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta and served as a practice facility for swimming during the Games.  The Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee (APOC) also recognized Shepherd Center as one of the founding sponsors for the 1996 Paralympic Games.

“In the spirit of the Paralympics, Shepherd Center continues to be a leader in the disabled sports community by serving as an elite training center for all adaptive sports and by providing education and expertise in athletic conditioning to enhance performance,” Edens said. 

Shepherd Center sponsors 11 sports teams, which provide individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in athletic competition on a local, national and international level. Sports team members support the hospital’s mission by providing community awareness, peer support and demonstrating lifelong wellness.

Edens and Shepherd Center recreation therapy staff members introduce sports opportunities to inpatients and day program participants. Early access to sports equipment during inpatient rehabilitation allows the patient time to assess what equipment is the most appropriate before purchasing personal equipment, Edens explained. Also, it allows the patient to gain the knowledge necessary to become an advocate in their own community using the resources and experience gained at Shepherd Center.

“Participation in sports and recreation can have a profound impact on individuals with spinal cord and brain injuries,” Edens said.

In addition to helping participants achieve independence, adaptive sports can have the following benefits:

  • Physical improvements in strength, coordination, balance, endurance, pulmonary function and weight control.
  • Reduced likelihood of medical complications, such as skin breakdown, pneumonia and muscle atrophy.
  • Reduced risk of many chronic diseases.
  • Increased life expectancy.
  • Greater levels of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy.
  • Greater life satisfaction.
  • Reduced anxiety, depression and enhanced mood.
  • Greater likelihood of employment, with less absenteeism and enhanced productivity.
  • Greater level of reintegration into the community and an active and productive life.

For people interested in joining a Shepherd Center sports team, more information is available at Membership on a Shepherd Center sports team is open to athletes with any type of a physical disability, as long as the disability falls within the guidelines of the sport. Shepherd sports include basketball, quad rugby, fencing, power soccer, racing, handcycling, swimming, bass fishing, water skiing, softball and indoor shooting.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.