5 September 2023
This September WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport will be welcoming over 75 recently paralysed hospital patients along to their flagship event, the annual Inter Spinal Unit Games. The participants will be travelling from across the United Kingdom and for many it will be first time away from the hospital environment following a life changing spinal cord injury.
The Inter Spinal Unit Games have been taking place at the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement since 1988 and the charity continues the visionary work of its founder Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann to provide sport and activities opportunities to support patients during their rehabilitation.
Over four exciting days of action the attendees will get to try 20 sports and learn from qualified coaches from a variety of sports organisations. In 2023 the sports on offer will include Wheelchair Basketball, Curling, Wheelchair Rugby, Tennis, Rowing, Wheelchair Racing, Shooting, Hand Cycling and Wheelchair Fencing to name a few. The sports take place across the Stoke Mandeville Stadium site and involve taster sessions and competitions as the week progresses. The event itself is also very sociable and for those who attend, being able to talk to others of a similar age and injury, share ideas, tips and advice is a very important aspect of the event, in addition to the sport and activity.
One of the participants from 2022 said, “It felt really nice to be in such an inclusive environment and everything was totally accessible. It was great being around other wheelchair users and I said to myself ‘I’m alright, I’m not in the minority here and I’m all good. The sports chairs gave me so much confidence to try everything. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and made it so easy to have a go. I would absolutely recommend the Games to anybody with a spinal cord injury, it was life changing for me to enjoy sport again. The feeling of a sense of belonging was the most special thing. I am stoked beyond words, it was the best event and a really wild ride with the most amazing people, and I wish we could do it all again.” Casey from Cornwall.
In the past WheelPower has welcomed many future GB athletes who first discovered their love of sport at the Inter Spinal Unit Games. Current athletes such as wheelchair racer and 2x Paralympic medallist Sammi Kinghorn first sat in a racing chair at this event in 2011. British Rower Benjamin Pritchard took part in the Games in 2017, and Liam McGarry GB Para-Powerlifting Record Holder was spotted by British Weightlifting during the 2018 Games (pictured) and is now on the Paralympic pathway to Paris 2024. He continues, “When I first heard about the spinal unit games it was something that I was keen to take part in. I wanted to see what the world of sport looked like from a wheelchair and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. The games were fantastic and I was keen to try it all, and during the week competed in the tennis, table tennis, swimming, archery, and the powerlifting. I will always be thankful to WheelPower and the spinal unit games as this is where the amazing journey that I am now on all started.”
Emily Weller, Head of Sport at WheelPower, comments: “The Inter Spinal Unit Games provide a brilliant opportunity for individuals with a spinal cord injury to discover activity and sport in a safe and welcoming environment. The Games provide participants with the opportunity to meet with people in a similar situation and share their own personal experiences about life with a spinal cord injury. From the first to the last day you can see how life changing this event is, demonstrating the transformative work of WheelPower and the difference the charity makes to disabled people’s lives.”
Martin McElhatton, WheelPower Chief Executive said: “2023 will be the 34th edition of the Inter Spinal Unit Games and with an estimated 1,500 people paralysed each year they still hold an important role in the rehabilitation of people with a spinal cord injury. The Games have helped thousands of people over the years and the thrill of finding something as positive as sport can be for newly paralysed people is what moves WheelPower to continue to provide this life transforming event for many more years to come.”