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Para athletes almost twice as vulnerable to injury and illness, study shows

Researchers are calling for better education around injury prevention for athletes with disabilities

In a new study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, researchers found that Para athletes are almost twice as likely to become injured or ill during training as able-bodied athletes, both as a result of training and as a result of their disability. The study calls for more attention to be paid to keeping Para athletes healthy.

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The study followed 18 Swedish Paralympic athletes who reported on their experience with training injuries and disability-related injuries. It found the greater incidence of both meant they were also more susceptible to anxiety, depression and stress from being sick or injured or missing training sessions.


The study also used a specially designed app for Para athletes to gather research from more than 100 athletes about their injury history over the course of a year. The report found that young athletes aged 18-25 who had recurring pain and regularly took pain medication suffered the most injuries. One of the researchers on the study, physiotherapist Kristina Fagher, said “Young athletes train more and exhibit higher risk behaviour, and at the same time their bodies are not fully developed. This group would truly need preventive work, so that they do not sustain injuries this early in life.”

The study found that two-thirds of athletes who reported had been injured during the year the information was gathered, more than half of the injuries resulted from the athlete’s impairment, and a significant percentage were considered serious sports injuries. Half the athletes reporting said they experienced pain on a weekly basis, and more than half reported they regularly did not sleep well.


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Seventy-seven per cent had been ill, mainly due to infections, during the year. In particular, urinary tract infections were common among athletes with spinal cord injuries.

Fagher went on to say that more needed to be done to help Para athletes stay healthy, including adapting preventive measures for athletes with disabilities.