Adaptive sports make athletic and recreational activities accessible to individuals of varying ages and disabilities by adapting the equipment and experience to fit their specific needs. These programs have been a growing part of the healthcare landscape over the past two decades. However, the research into their impact on improving quality of life has been limited. A new endeavor, the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, seeks to become the preeminent resource of data and information on adaptive sports programs. The Institute was created thanks to a generous donation by Jamie Bemis of Concord, Mass. to Spaulding. Dr. Cheri Blauwet, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, staff physician at Spaulding and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a decorated athlete in multiple Paralympics and Boston Marathon Wheelchair division victories, will serve as the Institute’s director.

“For years, participants, families and caregivers have seen the clear benefits of adaptive sports in providing recreation as well as improving function and confidence. With this generous donation we will be able to merge practice with research, investigating the tangible ways in which adaptive sports can be used as an important tool in enhancing rehabilitation and social integration,” said Dr. Cheri Blauwet.

The Bemis family saw first-hand the appreciable difference that adaptive sports programs can make. On September 12, 2011, without any warning, Jamie had a stroke affecting her right side, with 100% paralysis from the waist down and the loss of almost all use of her right arm. She had a lifetime of skills to relearn—walking, climbing stairs, using a computer and cooking, to name just a few.

In Jamie’s words, “At Spaulding I was wrapped in a blanket of support, which gave me the inspiration to keep progressing.” Jamie learned to ride a bike again in the Dr. Charles H. Weingarten Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program, and participated in Spaulding’s Adaptive Skiing. Over time, she built her strength and confidence while learning new ways to run that led to strengthening her right leg, necessary for driving a car, a major functional goal. As her independence improved she was even able to get back to a favorite pastime, hiking.

“I am extremely proud to support research to show the benefits of Adaptive Sports for participants. I know how much these programs were a benefit to me, and I am excited to be able to provide this for others in the future, “said Jamie.

Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country, serving over 900 regular participants annually. The program operates year-round in sports ranging from skiing, sled hockey, hand cycling, kayaking, golf, rock climbing and more. The program holds regular group sporting events including hand cycling, wheelchair basketball, and adaptive alpine skiing, to name a few, for a wide range of people with disabilities from various populations, including military veterans.

Dr. Blauwet plans for the Institute to initiate two research studies in the next year looking into clinical interventions and activities related to adaptive sports. “I believe we will empower clinicians to improve the health and well-being of the community with disabilities. These individuals experience a disproportionate level of obesity and secondary health conditions due to physical inactivity and isolation,” said Blauwet. The overall goal is to grow the data and findings available for clinicians to begin to find ways to use adaptive sports as a standard part of rehabilitative care.

For more information on the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute and Spaulding’s Adaptive Sports programs visit www.spauldingrehab.org or call Mark Priest, Network Registration Specialist, at 877.976.7272