Best Sports to Play After Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury is devastating and can lead to permanent disability and a host of other possible medical issues. While some are permanent, other spinal cord injuries improve with time, and some people manage to recover enough to return to the physical activities they love. However, it’s vital for spinal cord injury victims to talk with their doctors about acceptable physical activities. While some physical activities and sports may be healthy and help maintain an active lifestyle, others carry a high risk of aggravating or worsening a past spinal injury.

If you or a loved one recently suffered a spinal cord injury, your doctor will carefully outline your treatment plan and list acceptable physical activities after recovery. Consider the following most popular sports for spinal cord injury victims and cross-reference them with your doctor’s recommendations to find a sport that’s right for you and safe to play after a spinal cord injury.


Wheelchair basketball has been a staple of the Paralympics for years, and many spinal cord injury victims who lose the use of their legs find that wheelchair basketball is a great way to stay fit and active even without the use of their legs. Wheelchair basketball started thanks to wounded World War II veterans who were looking for a way to enjoy sports again after sustaining catastrophic combat wounds. Today, there are wheelchair basketball clubs and leagues all over the world. The sport retains many of the same rules as regular basketball, with a few exceptions to accommodate dribbling while sitting in a wheelchair.

Hand Cycling

This adaptive sport came about in the 1980s and involves a specialized bicycle that moves with hand-powered pedals instead of foot-powered pedals. Hand cycling allows individuals who have lost motor function in their legs to enjoy cycling, and hand cycling has evolved into a complete sport; it joined the Paralympics in 2004.


Golf is a great option for those looking for a more relaxing physical activity. Golf isn’t very demanding and is playable from a wheelchair. Some paraplegics and even individuals who have lost use of an arm can still enjoy golfing at different handicap levels.


Swimming is a fantastic option for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Even individuals who have lost the use of one or more limbs can enjoy swimming thanks to the buoyancy of water. Buoyancy can help individuals feel more independent and provide relief from the restrictiveness of a wheelchair. Swimming has been a staple sport of the Paralympics since the 1960s.

Adapted Skiing

Skiing is a great winter sport, but it is very physically demanding. Luckily for individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries, there are several types of skis designed specifically for disabled skiers. Some adaptive skiers use a single ski with a seat, while others use paired skis with a seat. Another option is a wider ski more akin to a narrow sled. Adaptive skiing is still very physically demanding and requires upper body strength and quick reflexes, but it is a great choice for athletes who suffered spinal cord injuries and still wish to compete in winter sports.

Wheelchair Racing

People who have suffered spinal cord injuries and require the use of wheelchairs afterward can still enjoy the thrill and competition of racing. Adapting to a wheelchair is difficult and takes time. Wheelchair racing can not only provide exercise and a way to compete while disabled but can also help improve the reflexes and chair control necessary for everyday life.

Wheelchair Tennis

Wheelchair tennis has been picking up traction all over the world and is one of the fastest-growing wheelchair sports. Wheelchair tennis holds the exact same rules as regular tennis, with one exception: the ball may bounce twice instead of only once. This sport is great for cardiovascular health and upper body strength, and wheelchair-bound players can enjoy games with their non-disabled friends.

These are just a few of the sports available to people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. A wheelchair doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying sports and physical activity, so talk to your doctor about which sports would be right for you and then do some research into clubs and leagues in your area to get started. If your injury was caused by the negligence of another party, speak with a skilled Austin spinal cord injury lawyer to learn your available legal options.