Małgorzata Schwarzgruber talks with Ziemowit Budko about sport competition for the disabled.
How does your job with injured veterans, players preparing for the Invictus Games, which will take place in Sydney in October, look like?
I am a specialist in orthopedics and sports medicine. So far, my role has been to assess the general health of players and to adapt the training to their abilities. I also make sure that it is safe for them. During the exercises, I react to possible injuries or diseases of the players. I will also help them to travel safely. I am glad that earlier I was in the Polish military contingent, thus now I can participate in the medical protection of the injured veterans.
The veterans have already participated in two sports camps in the Training and Fitness Center in Mragowo, where they had trained under the supervision of trainers. In September, at the next batch, they will finish preparations for their start in the Olympics. What were the main reasons for choosing the competition, in which they will start in Sydney? Can some diseases exclude a player from participating in the games?
During the qualification, both the results achieved, the types of veterans' disabilities and the types of competition planned for the Invictus Games were taken into account. A whole staff of people, not only physicians, but also physiotherapists, psychologists, trainers, and nutritionists, take part in the preparation of the players. In my opinion, the main criterion limiting the possibility of participating in the Invictus Games may be the difficulty of traveling and possible acclimatization on the spot.
Veterans who were injured during foreign military missions have some limitations in the choice of sport discipline. Does physical activity affect them similarly to healthy people?
Playing sports affects healthy and disabled people in a similar way, but in the latter case their action is double, because the exercises are also a form of rehabilitation. People with disabilities are training to - similarly to the healthy ones - increase their muscular strength and physical capacity, but through training, they can additionally develop their ability to compensate for their disabilities. Sports activity becomes a multidirectional and comprehensive rehabilitation that affects both the physical and psychological realm of a man. Trainings of healthy people are individualized and of the disabled ones - superindividualized, because they have to be adapted to the health of a given person and the type of disease and disability. Such activity is also increasingly promoted by paralympics. World War II veterans had already taken part in sport competitions, for example in 1944 RAF pilots participated in them. During the Invictus Games, Polish soldiers formerly serving at the Polish Military Contingent will compete with their colleagues from other armies, with whom they previously had military operations.
Can train by themselves at the gym or do they have to do it under the supervision of a trainer?
If the veterans function by themselves daily, then they do not have to be accompanied all the time by a trainer during physical exercises. However, it is good to have a professional who will assess whether the exercises are done correctly and, if necessary, will correct their way of performing an exercise or arrange the training in a different order. Healthy people play a significant role in the sport of disabled people, I think that, for example, about volunteers. Some help the visually impaired in training, for example they can run or ride a bike in tandem with them.
Others are joining in logistics, for example they will organize training for wheelchair users. This joint action is an additional integration factor. People with disabilities do not feel excluded from sports activities at time and even have the opportunity to return to social functions.
Can some kind of disability be excluded from participating in sports?
People with disabilities play the same sport disciplines as healthy people. However, the rules and categories of the relevant types of sport are adjusted. Special disciplines are also created for people with special physical or mental limitations. Currently, everyone has the chance to find a competition, in which they can compete with others who are in a similar life situation. It is also ensured that people with a similar degree of disability can compete with each other.
It has a multidirectional effect, increases the efficiency of muscles, cardiovascular system, and also, which is of great importance for people with disabilities, it improves motor coordination. Systematic exercises also require involvement of the psyche, which creates the strength of will and fortitude. The result of trainings is increased efficiency of the body, which leads directly to better coping with the physical hardships of everyday life, as well as improving self-esteem and a better attitude to life. The social aspect is also important - during joint exercises it is not only about competition, but also about mutual support - beginners see what results they can achieve through the exercises. People with disabilities can integrate with others, who find themselves in a similar situation, allowing them to return to social life.
Major Chief Dr. Med. Ziemowit Budek is a specialist in orthopedics and sports medicine in the 2 Military Field Hospital in Wroclaw. He participated in four changes of the Polish Military Contingent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz