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7 Suprising Sports You Can Still Play With a Spinal Cord Injury

sports with a spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury doesn't have to be the end of your life. It can be a new chapter that opens up new worlds, new possibilities, and new challenges. You might think your injury means a life confined to a wheelchair, free of sports, but ask Paralympic athletes, and they'll tell you something completely different. With a bit of commitment, you can play nearly any sport, and teams specifically designed for those who have suffered spinal cord injuries are springing up across the country.

In fact, there are many surprising sports that you can play with a spinal cord injury. Here are seven of the most popular.


As one of the first sports to be modified for wheelchair users, basketball has a long and storied reputation among those who have suffered a spinal cord injury. There are wheelchair basketball teams flung across the country, and in the Paralympics, basketball remains one of the most respected sports.

Track and Field

You might not be able to run or to scale hurdles, but that doesn't mean track and field is an impossibility. Many organizations now offer wheelchair-friendly track and field events, such as the 100-meter dash. These athletes, rather than building strength in their lower bodies, steadily build strength in their upper bodies so they can propel their wheelchairs forward.


If you have some motor control in your lower body, swimming may be an option. The water makes you more buoyant, offering support to strengthen muscles you rarely use outside of the pool. Swimming is so beneficial for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries that many physical therapists now incorporate swimming into their routines for patients.


Dancing is about feeling the rhythm of the music, not about what your legs are doing. You can customize virtually every variety of dance to be wheelchair-friendly, and a number of cities are home to wheelchair-only dance halls. So popular is wheelchair dancing, that a number of wheelchair-only dance troupes have sprung up across the country.


Though some golfers use the sport as a chance to walk long miles, there's no requirement that you have the full use of your legs to golf. You can modify your stance and still play the sport, and some people even join wheelchair teams. If you opt to golf from your wheelchair, most country clubs are required to make their courses accessible, but you should still call ahead of time to avoid injury and disappointment.

Hand Cycling

If you've always loved cycling, don't view your injury as a loss; instead, it's an opportunity to embrace a new type of cycling. Hand cycling allows you to use your hands to propel your bike forward, and many hand cyclers become so good at the sport that they're able to race with more traditional cyclers.


With its relatively small playing surface, flat court, and reliance on upper body strength, tennis is the perfect sport for people with limited low-body mobility. You don't have to play on a wheelchair-only team, either; many people with spinal cord injuries end up playing tennis with uninjured people. But more and more wheelchair-specific tennis teams are welcoming new members.

Sports with a Spinal Cord Injury

Keeping active after a debilitating injury is as important to continual recovery and health as quality nutrition. You may be surprised by how many options for sports with a spinal cord injury there actually are. Organizations around the country have come together to provide options that improve the quality of life for disabled persons.

Are you interested in learning more about the options in your area? Click the button below to be connected with a patient advocate who will help you walk through resources and opportunities near you.

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