A Cross-Disability Analysis of Programming Needs for Athletes with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Active participation in sport is generally associated with positive

outcomes for athletes with disabilities

(Dummer, Ewing, Habeck, & Overton, 1987). Many investigations have focused on physiological and biomedical effects of sport participation. For example, Kobberling, Jankowski, and Leger (1989) explored the energy cost of running for 30 adolescents who were blind. In another example, Coutts and Strogryn (1987) examined aerobic and anaerobic capacities of six track athletes who used wheelchairs. Wells and Hooker (1990) concluded from a review of literature that athletic profiles of persons with spinal cord injuries had focused on body composition, pulmonary function, cardiovascular efficiency, muscular strength and endurance, and anaerobic power related to exercise. Further, Smith (1993) reported cardiovascular health, improved health maintenance, coordination, flexibility, weight control, and muscular strength were all physiological benefits of sport and physical activity for people with physical disabilities.

Researchers have begun to move beyond examining physiological responses to training, and now explore other factors involved in participation. For example, several researchers (Coyle, Kinney, & Shank, 1991; Patrick, 1986; Sherrill, Hinson, Gench, Kennedy, & Low, 1990; Smith, 1993) reported athletic participation resulted in psychological benefits, including reduced depression and anxiety, perceived competence, increased self-efficacy and self-confidence, self-concept, increased acceptance of disability, and general well being. In addition, Kleiber, Ashton-Shaeffer, Malik, Lee, and Hood (1990) concluded involvement in competitive sports for people with disabilities seemed to have an impact on improving social interactions at home, acquiring friends, and improving physical coordination, strength, endurance, and self-confidence.

Since many variables influence participation for athletes with disabilities, researchers have begun to study training patterns of people with disabilities. For example, Hedrick, Morse, and Figoni (1988) analyzed competitive experiences and training practices of 100 adult athletes who were blind. More recently, Watanable, Cooper, Vosse, Baldini, and Robertson (1992) and Davis, Ferrara, and Nelson (1993) surveyed athletes attending a training camp for elite athletes with disabilities in regards to their training practices.

Although much information has been obtained, the aforementioned investigations of athletes with disabilities and other studies (Ferrara & Davis, 1990; Curtis & Dillion (1985) had limited sample sizes, and /or analyzed only one disabling condition at a time. Studies reporting comparisons among athletes with disabilities are needed.

In response to recommendations by DePauw (1988) to examine crossdisability research designed to identify similarities and differences among athletes, this study was initiated to develop a profile of practices and desires of various athletes with disabilities. Specifically, this study examined nutritional patterns, educational experiences, and perceived barriers to participation for athletes with cerebral palsy, athletes who used wheelchairs, and athletes who had visual impairments. Based on this information, educational strategies can be designed and implemented.

Methods

Subjects

Participants from national games of three Disabled Sports Organizations served as the population. The total number of participants registering for all of these competitions was 789. Overall, a total of 434 subjects participated in the project; eight surveys were deemed incomplete and were not included in final tabulations. There were 87 subjects from Wheelchair Sports, USA (formerly NWAA) (71 male, 16 female), 122 subjects from the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) (81 male, 41 female), and 217 subjects from the United States Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association (USCPAA) (152 male, 65 female). …