Wheelchair basketball: Wounded warriors roll to recovery
July 3, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Being a wounded warrior no longer means being confined by physical limits on the road to recovery.
Now it's about which activities can be modified to fit a Soldier's abilities to offer more fitness options.
"We concentrate on their abilities rather than their disabilities and try to provide an alternative to their physical activity," said Sgt. 1st Class Javony Morales, Company A, Warrior Transition Unit-Wiesbaden Cadre platoon sergeant, during a session of wheelchair basketball June 22 at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center. "Here is a way for them to socialize and overcome their obstacles… to get out there and do something different."
The wheelchair basketball outing was offered as a part of the WTU's adaptive sports program that was incorporated in the WTU fitness regimen more than one year ago after members from the Paralympic Committee toured Army installations to instruct the Warrior Transition Command on how to incorporate adaptive sports into its fitness programs.
According to the WTC website, adaptive sports and reconditioning programs play a major role in the speed and recovery of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. The programs are in place at all 29 of the Army's WTUs.
In coordination with the Paralympic Military Program, physical therapists and medical providers integrate adaptive activities into Soldier treatment and recovery plans.
"A profile tells them all the things they can't do. I tell them the things they can do," said Ryan Paddock, Company A, WTU-Wiesbaden rehabilitation therapy technician, who has oversight of the Soldiers' sports and fitness programs and nutrition.
The adaptive sports are breaking the paradigm of what was accepted for rehabilitation and recovery. It offers Soldiers, who were once restricted by medical profiles from doing things such as pushups, situps or running, a wider array of fitness alternatives toward recovery while assigned to such units.
"If you're a little creative there's always something you can do," said Paddock who said that the unit has two sessions of physical training daily that includes a leisure activity such as hiking, golfing and canoeing. "We keep these (Soldiers) very active. We're always doing something."
And while such sports as wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball were initially designed with paraplegic athletes in mind, it evens the grounds of competition when it's adapted for athletes of diverse abilities. It allows one with limited abilities to compete confidently with someone who is fully functional.
"It's about leveling the playing field," said Paddock who emphasized the ideal of inclusion and camaraderie for WTU Soldiers as they recover or grow toward a new state of normalcy. "We try to do anything that keeps them involved. We find ways to keep them engaged."
"You get the competitiveness you lose when you're hurt. It helps you get it back," Sgt. Daniel Vantrease, WTU-Kleber, who said he is recovering from a back injury.
According to Morales, the program is turning out positive results for warriors in transition.
"Warriors come out with a more positive outlook on life," he said, noting that the Soldiers go away from the sessions and their assignments in the WTUs more confident.
For Spc. DeVaughn Anderson, WTU-Heidelberg, the adaptive sports program opened him to another world. "There's a whole bunch of stuff I didn't know," he said, adding that after taking part in the adaptive sports program he became aware of other activities and sports offered for differently abled individuals.
"You definitely get an upper body workout," he said, mentioning rock climbing and biking as a couple of his favorite activities as a part of the adaptive sports program.
Other wounded warriors welcome the semblance of competition the sport offers while going through rehabilitation.
Learn more about the Army Wounded Warrior Program at http://wtc.army.mil.