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Paralympic athlete's health
  1. Peter Van de Vliet
  1. Correspondence to Peter Van de Vliet, Medical and Scientific Director, International Paralympic Committee, Bonn 53113, Germany; peter.vandevliet{at}

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While sport has value in everyone's life, it is even more important in the life of a person with a disability. This is because of the rehabilitative influence sport can have, on the physical body, and on rehabilitating into society. Nowadays, sports and physical activity found its way in rehabilitation, and individuals with a disability participate in high-performance as well as in competitive and recreational sport across the world. The Paralympic Games, originated from sports complementary to physical rehabilitation, are the pinnacle event.1

Paralympic athletes can be categorised in different groups, each requiring a particular approach with regard to medical care: athletes with loss of limb or limb deficiency (eg, amputation), athletes with loss of muscle power (eg, spinal cord injury, postpoliomyelitis, spina bifida), athletes with coordination problems (eg, hypertonia, ataxia, or athetosis as clinically manifested in, for example, cerebral palsy), athletes with visual impairment and athletes with intellectual impairment.

With participation in sport comes an associated risk of injury. Despite the growing awareness and popularity of disability sport, there continues to be a relative paucity to understanding the injury patterns and risk factors for injury among these athletes.2 The (advances in) use of assistive propulsion and protective devices, as allowed by the sport technical rules (orthotic or prosthetic devices, wheelchairs, throwing chairs, sitskis, sledges, use of goggles, …) brings …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.