Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Military Sports Camp
The Paralympics is a relatively new sporting event, having made its first appearance in 1960. The Paralympics consist of both winter and summer events and was created with the idea of rehabilitation in mind. Dr. Ludwig Guttmann thought that injured and wounded soldiers during World War II would be able to enhance their physical abilities through sport. Today, the Paralympic Summer Games have proudly become the second-largest sporting event in the world. Held every 4 years for individuals with disability, the Paralympics is the equivalent of the Olympics and hosts many of the same sports. Each sport is divided into several classes: persons with visual impairments, physical disabilities, amputee athletes, individuals with cerebral palsy, individuals with spinal cord injuries, and any other person with a physical disability not mentioned.
Going back to its roots, the Paralympic association launched Paralympic military camps, which take place all across the nation. From California to Rhode Island, Paralympic Military Sports Camps offer servicemen and servicewomen the ability to experience a wide variety of events spread over a multi-day period. Camps commonly include events such as swimming, archery, power lifting, judo, biathlon, tennis, cycling, sled hockey, wheelchair basketball, sailing, and many more. In a recent military camp hosted by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, U.S. Marine Sgt. William White said, “the clinic was a surprisingly good opportunity to meet and see other injured persons from all branches of United States Services.” He went on further to say that “it wasn’t a pity-party but a celebration of all the things [they] had in common.”
Finding out when the next camp is taking place is easily done through the official website of the USA Paralympic team (www.usaparalympics.org). Future sports camps are listed almost a year out along with information on who to contact and how to attend. Selected applicants always attend cost-free; all travel expenses, food, and housing are paid for.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago hosts a Military Sports Camp annually, with the next camp coming up in August 2012. The most recent camp included wheelchair basketball, fitness demonstrations, power lifting, judo, sit volleyball, archery, track and field events, biathlon, sled hockey, kayaking, cycling, and golf. All of these events were taught by professionals of the sports, many of whom competed in past Paralympic events.
The RIC Military Camp often brings in current and former athletes to assist with the camp and its activities. This year, Patrick Byrne, a 2002 USA Paralympic Sled Hockey gold medalist, taught sled hockey, which is basically the same as traditional hockey, only the athletes use a small sled that’s generally fitted to the player with two blades in the rear and a runner in the front to keep the sled off of the ice. The players use two smaller hockey sticks to propel the sled. As sled hockey is a sport that isn’t played too often unless you’re on a team, some individuals were a little apprehensive at first, but once everyone started playing, all worries were forgotten and high fives, camaraderie, and encouraging cheers quickly filled the gym. It was a great experience for everyone and many of the participants came back for a second or third game.
Another event that was demonstrated at RIC’s camp this past year was the biathlon. The biathlon is any event made up of two sports, but it primarily refers to the Olympic winter game, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting. Adapted for the Paralympics, biathlon has divisions for standing, sitting, and visually impaired, so that all athletes compete against others who have a similar disability. Events are either long-distance or short-distance and shooting is always done from a prone position. Lacking snow, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was still able to provide the biathlon experience for the participants. A carriage with wheels, instead of skis, was used, while participants used poles to propel themselves around a track. Once finished, participants lay prone and used infrared rifles to hit targets at a distance. For individuals with visual impairment, headphones were worn during the shooting component. A tone is played and the closer to the bull’s-eye a participant gets, the higher the tone gets. This event was challenging for the participants, but everyone who tried it did succeed, which was very motivating for everyone else.
These are just two examples of activities and events that were completed at the RIC Military Camp. It is truly a great experience for everyone involved and one that brings veterans together from all areas of the country.
For more information on the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Military Sports Camp, go to: http://www.ric.org/healthinfo/fitness/sportsprograms/paralympicservices/militarycamp.aspx . The website shows videos and pictures of the most recent camps, as well as dates for future camps. Additionally, the following YouTube clip will also give a brief glimpse into the activities and participants of the RIC Military Camp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jutneq3Ht-0&feature=youtu.be .