Being a water based sport, swimming is especially accessible to those with disabilities. Water provides a natural support system for people that allows anyone, disability or not, to exercise in the water. Because your body is almost completely buoyant in the water, swimming workouts pose the least stress on your body and is the least likely to cause injuries. This low impact-nature of swimming allows people who rely on wheelchairs and crutches on land to make do without them when they are in the water.
In addition to this, there are plenty of swimming gear and equipment that answer possible challenges and help coaches in training swimmers with disabilities. Fin’s can be worn by people with leg injuries to give them the added traction that they need. Elastic bandages can be used to help those with hand problems for extra support. “Tappers”, people who make tapping sounds to guide the swimmer, can aid blind or visually impaired swimmers.
It comes as no surprise that swimming was one of the first sports to be included in the Paralympic Games, the Olympics for disabled athletes, and has become one of the most popular today.
Aside from recreational and competitive purposes, learning how to swim also offers therapeutic benefits to those with disabilities. Swimming allows people to develop their core strength, stability and mental discipline. It also plays a vital role in neuromuscular. Neuromuscular training aids people who suffer from problems such as cerebral palsy, strokes and other head injuries. Practicing swimming techniques requires constant attention to detail and repetitive training which helps the neuromuscular system with cognitive disabilities. Therapeutic swimming exercises can also help treat back problems, arthritis and heart problems.
In order to get the most out of swimming training and to make sure the swimmers are safe, it is very important for coaches to understand their student and their respective disabilities in and out. When determining their coaching styles, special concern has to be placed into the necessities of their disabilities. Some swimmers for example may have unique dietary needs, which require coaches to make sure not to over-train them. Other than these concerns however, swimmers with disabilities should be trained and challenged in swimming classes just like any other.
Nowadays, with advances in technology, medicine and sports therapy, the word ‘disabled’ is slowly starting to become a misnomer. Whether something as large as Olympic scale competitions or something as simple as swimming, these people are proving they can succeed at just about anything.