Individuals with physical disabilities who participated in adapted sports had significantly higher quality of life and life satisfaction scores compared with individuals with physical disabilities not involved in adapted sports, according to study results published in Disability and Health Journal.
“Participation in adapted sports by people with physical disabilities facilitates establishment of social contact and psychological health, and helps individuals with a disability focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities. However, few investigations have shown that participation in adapted sports has a positive effect on overall health, quality of life, quality of family life and quality of social life among people with physical disabilities,” the researchers wrote. “We hypothesized that quality of life and life satisfaction in people with physical disabilities who participated in adapted sports would be higher than in people with physical disabilities not involved in any adapted sports.”
QoL, life satisfaction results
Between January 2010 and March 2011, 60 individuals with paraplegia or amputation from an outpatient physical therapy clinic were divided into two groups: one group comprised 30 disabled elite athletes who participated in adapted sports, while the control group included 30 disabled individuals not involved in any adapted sports. Researchers compared scores on the WHO Quality-of-Life Scale (WHOQoL-BREF) and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) and examined participation in the community and quality of life as a reflection of participant’s priority on sports participation.
According to study results, WHOQoL-BREF physical, psychological and social domain scores were significantly higher in the athletes’ group vs. the control group. However, environment domain scores were similar between the two groups. SWLS scores were also significantly higher in the athletes’ group vs. the control group.
The athletes’ group reported that sports activity and family support were the most important factors of participating in the community, whereas the control group reported physical therapy and rehabilitation and family support as the most important contributing factors. These factors were also reported as having the most positive effect on quality of life among the groups.
“We were unable to establish a cause and effect relationship between sports participants and quality of life: Does participation in sports improve quality of life? Or, does a higher quality of life predispose people to be involved in sports?” the researchers wrote. “Further studies are needed to find answers to these questions and to determine whether correlations exist between sport participation and quality of life scores.”
Adapted sports vs. physical therapy, rehabilitation
According to the researchers, “adapted sports are being used as an adjunct to conventional physical therapy with increasing frequency.” In the study, researchers found that participation in adapted sports was the most significant factor that positively affected participation in the community and quality of life for the athletes’ group whereas physical therapy and rehabilitation positively affected the control group.
The researchers believe there are two reasons behind these results. First, individuals with physical disabilities still require some form of rehabilitation after finishing the formal physical rehabilitation period. Adapted sports can replace formal physical therapy and rehabilitation because it is a valuable recreational therapy, according to the researchers. Secondly, although physical therapy cannot continue long term on an inpatient or outpatient basis, individuals with physical disabilities may insist on continuing with physical therapy unless they are directed and motivated to participate in adapted sports.
“We think that recreational therapy and adapted sports improve overall physical, social and psychological functioning in the long term,” the researchers said. — by Casey Murphy
Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.