Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Aquatic Sports

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Aquatic Sports

Article excerpt

Sports can provide physical activity and recreation that yield psychological and physical benefits. Potential benefits include improvement of mood-state, reduction of anxiety and depression, increased self-esteem, improved perceived health and long-term reduced risk of many chronic diseases.

The number of people with disabilities who engage in sports and other physical activities has increased dramatically in the past decade, due to the growing field of assistive sports equipment. There are national and international sports associations, and organized competitions for persons with disabilities are now commonplace for many different sports. Whether for competition or simply recreation, the sports equipment market is overflowing with devices to get fans off the sidelines and into the sports arena.

Sports equipment of any kind is designed with the user's safety in mind, but it must be fitted and employed properly. Questions about the type or model of equipment that will be fun and safe should be directed to the product manufacturers, the appropriate sports organization (see the Directory of National Recreation Organizations, June 1993), a prosthetist or therapist.

Swimming and other water activities are used in rehabilitation and physical therapy to promote good muscle tone, lung capacity, flexibility and overall fitness without causing undue pressure on joints or bones. Aquatic activity can be fun and relaxing, and learning to float or swim can lead to participation in other aquatic sports. For advanced swimmers, there are local, national and international competitions.

Flotation devices are designed to keep either a person's entire body or specific parts of the body afloat. Most flotation aids are made of vinyl-coated soft flotation foam with adjustable straps to attach around arms, legs, the torso, the head or the neck. Sizes are based on the user's weight. Flotation devices are good for persons with some head and neck control and to help compensate for uneven weight distribution. In addition to helping a person maintain a horizontal floating position, some models will maintain vertical positions in the water for walking/gait exercises and for games such as water polo.

Swimming aids take a variety of forms, including rings, harnesses, platforms, belts and bars. Platforms generally allow free movement of the head, arms and legs while providing buoyancy to the swimmer. Harnesses may or may not have head and neck supports and are designed to maintain the body in a usual swim position. …

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