It is an unfortunate fact that many service members returning injured from combat have suffered a massive amount of trauma. Blast injuries may result in multiple disabilities such as amputations and traumatic brain injuries. The trauma may also include a heart attack and stroke. A large number have sustained an anoxic brain injury as the result of their ordeal. Individuals that are non-ambulatory and non-verbal with both complex physical and cognitive disabilities most definitely need and should have access to adaptive recreation.
Therapeutic adaptive recreation is the practice of enabling people with disabilities to participate in a wide range of recreational activities. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that state and city governments accommodate disabled people, and enable them to participate in recreational programs. In adaptive recreation, the activities are typically modified so that all participants have an equal opportunity to play and compete. Also, in many instances assistive technology such as hearing aids, pool lifts and wheelchairs are used to help enable disabled participants. This allows disabled and non-disabled players to engage together in activities such as wheelchair basketball, where participants who have use of their legs still compete from a wheelchair.
Adaptive recreation isn’t limited to traditional team sports, and there are programs across America that include everything from kayaking to horse riding to skiing. Adaptive recreation creates an environment where disabled veterans can bond with other veterans and teammates to engage in physical rehabilitation as well as gain the potentially deep psychological benefits of exercise. It’s increasingly seen as a vital therapy component for returning soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Family members speak of adaptive recreation as essential to the healing process for their wounded loved ones. Veterans have described it as a way to “quell the demons” and as a way to “feel calm” and reduce stress. The social contacts, as well as the gains in physical skills and endurance combine to increase the confidence that is such an important part of reintegrating into their communities, and finding new success in their professional and personal lives. What was once seen as impossible, such as a person without the use of their legs skiing, is now recognized as an essential way for wounded veterans, family members and caregivers to come together and create healing, hope, energy, and meaning.
You can find more information about this and a calendar of events by reading about C.A.M.O. (Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities)
- a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing therapeutic adaptive recreation to wounded military.
This article is part of a DailyStrength series celebrating Fourth of July week, and recognizing and honoring veterans and their efforts to serve and protect. Read more stories including first-hand accounts from veterans themselves, tips for a great holiday, and more resources for veterans.