Practical management: common medical problems in disabled athletes

Clin J Sport Med. 2007 Jan;17(1):55-60. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3180302587.


Disabled athletes face many challenges during training and competition. As the number of disabled athletes grows, sports medicine professionals must become proficient in dealing with this population. A functional classification system is used to classify disabled athletes into 1 of 6 categories: wheelchair athletes, amputees, athletes with cerebral palsy, visual impairment, intellectual impairment, and les autres. Injury patterns have been identified for certain groups, with wheelchair athletes typically sustaining upper extremity injuries, blind athletes sustaining lower extremity injuries, and cerebral palsy athletes sustaining both. Common problems affecting wheelchair athletes include autonomic dysreflexia, difficulty with thermoregulation, pressure sores, neurogenic bladder, premature osteoporosis, peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes, and upper extremity injuries. Cerebral palsy athletes often have injuries involving the knee and foot due to problems with spasticity and foot deformities. Amputee athletes sustain injuries to the stump, spine, and intact limbs, while blind athletes suffer lower extremity injuries. Intellectually disabled athletes frequently have underlying ocular and visual defects, congenital cardiac anomalies, and atlantoaxial instability that predispose them to injuries. This article reviews key information pertinent to the care of these athletes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries*
  • Autonomic Dysreflexia
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Paraplegia*
  • Pressure Ulcer
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports*
  • Wheelchairs*