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Life-changing injuries don’t have to mean giving up on the activities you love

Life-changing injuries don’t have to mean giving up on the activities you love

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28 Sep, 2020

Some Service men and women suffer life-changing injuries while serving in the Armed Forces. With so much change to come to terms with in every aspect of daily and family life, it isn’t surprising that many disabled veterans believe that they will never be able to participate in their favourite activities again. The impact that belief has on individuals who may have otherwise lived and breathed sport and fitness throughout their military careers cannot be underestimated.

Indeed, prior to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, there had been little visibility of adaptive sport within the civilian sporting world for many years. However, within the military, former RAF Group Captain Vicky Gosling OBE was seeing a rising number of Service men and women, including her own colleagues, returning from the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan with life-changing injuries. After seeing the restorative power of sport for patients at Headley Court, Gosling arranged to take her colleagues to a water sports centre to play adapted sports and started her own journey, establishing Combined Services Adapted Sports within the military. 

Gosling went on to become military executive lead for the inauguration of the Invictus Games in 2014 in London, before being appointed as CEO for the first Invictus Games abroad, in Florida in 2016. The success of the Invictus Games has increased the momentum of adaptive sport, challenging the common misconception that sport is no longer an option after a life-changing injury, and demonstrating the power it has in aiding an individual’s recovery. Thousands have been inspired and seen for themselves just how much is possible for all levels of disability. Following her appointment as CEO of GB Snow Sport, Gosling has continued to push boundaries, announcing that she is seeking to make GB a top five snow sport nation by 2030. Her passion to include adaptive sports within this goal was clear, as she immediately merged the Paralympic and Olympic teams upon joining GB Snow Sport as CEO. 

Adaptive sport now occupies an important space in the sporting world, and has demonstrated that sports such as athletics, wheelchair rugby and basketball, cycling, swimming, archery, equestrian sports and power lifting – to name but a few – are accessible on both a personal and competitive level to people across the whole spectrum of both visible and invisible disability. As its public profile has increased, so too have various initiatives across the country, whether that is through encouraging injured personnel to partake in adaptive sport while they are still serving prior to medical discharge, initiatives to make gyms across the country inclusive by providing specialist equipment and physiotherapists/trainers to assist users, or through various veteran and civilian organisations and charities which offer support, advice and assistance in accessing adaptive sports following discharge from the military. 

There is also a whole market of specialist equipment available, designed to enable a person with a disability to participate safely in adaptive sports. From specialist prosthetics and wheelchairs that need to be easy to manoeuvre and robust enough to play wheelchair rugby or basketball, to specialist skis, adapted vehicles and boats, the list is endless – and, as the technology continues to evolve, the barriers to accessing the whole spectrum of sport continue to diminish. Sadly, however, specialist equipment can often work out to be very expensive, with some items costing thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds. Some organisations are able to raise the funds to buy equipment for their service users, where individuals cannot afford to buy it privately, and organisations such as GB Snow Sport do try to make the sports accessible to people from all walks of life, rather than those for example who have always had the means to go on skiing holidays, but what is available isn’t sufficient to meet demand. 

For those Service men and women who are pursuing compensation claims for life-changing injuries, the guiding principle is that the injured party can claim for their losses suffered as a result of their injuries and for the costs of things that they will need to help them live as normal a life as possible. In addition to claiming for losses such as earnings, pension loss, medical treatment, care and accommodation costs, you can also claim compensation for the costs of accessing adaptive sports. This can include the cost of paying for specialist equipment and the replacement costs taking into account wear and tear, sports clothing and shoes specially designed to accommodate the person’s disability, club/membership fees, training session fees and the like. 

The benefits, both physically and mentally, of staying active and participating in sports, particularly for those suffering from a disability, are immense, and well proven. It is heartening to see that so much progress has been made over the past few years to dispel the myth that it’s no longer possible to enjoy the activities you love after a life-changing injury, or to explore new activities that interest you. On the contrary, ‘invictus’ means unconquered, and it is this unconquered fighting spirit that will continue to inspire people to believe how much injured Service men and women really can achieve.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gaggan Mawi is an Associate Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp, specialising in the representation of injured and disabled Service personnel.

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