As soon as it snows, emergency rooms see a spike in visits related to winter sports injuries. — Despite what one might think, it’s not hockey players and snowmobilers, but skiers and snowboarders, who account for most of the injured. More than half of the cases are major injuries such as fractures, brain trauma, internal organ injury or spinal cord injuries.
But returning to the slopes after an accident is key after an accident. Indeed, PTSD and anxiety are conditions that often develop following a sudden painful experience, such as a serious accident. Exposure therapy is a type of behavioural therapy that helps the individual safely face situations and memories that he/she finds frightening in order to learn to cope with them effectively and involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source.
A moment of escapism, away from the confinement of a wheelchair
For people dealing with a personal injury that hasn’t been sustained during winter sports, the benefits of hitting the slopes again, despite their disability, are countless.
Thomas was a ski instructor for 20 years until a car crash in 2017 left him with a spinal cord injury and rendered him a paraplegic.
Last year, the 45-year-old travelled to Blue Mountain to try skiing again, this time in a sit-ski. Thomas called the experience a moment of “escapism.”
“It was amazing to have the freedom again,” said Thomas.
“I’m pretty content with everything I’ve achieved in my life so far, but there were things I wanted to do with m kids, like skiing holidays in Vermont.”
“Wheelchairs are confinement,” said Thomas, adding adaptive sports give a person who has a spinal cord injury “perpetual motion.“It gets you off your butt, and gives you a target.”
“I’m going to learn to ski again so I can go out with my kids. They can help me on and off the chair, as I did for them when they were little.”
“Any young injured person has the ability to jump on [an adaptive sport] and make it their own,” said Thomas.
“In traditional skiing, there’s a technically correct way to ski,” he said. “In adaptive skiing, anything goes. You just get down the hill safely and in control… you tweak the equipment, you figure out how your body can make the movements. You make the sport work for you.”
Adaptive sports programs give people with and without physical disabilities a chance to try out a wide range of activities. One demographic that these programs hope to engage is also the family and friends of people in wheelchairs. For instance, children with disabilities don’t always have siblings that also have disabilities. Often their brothers and sisters or their friends are able-bodied and so this gives them now an opportunity to participate together, socialize and enjoy the benefits that sport can provide.
Where to practice adaptive sports in Edmonton
CADS Edmonton and CADS Alberta
CADS Edmonton and CADS Alberta offer programs in both downhill skiing and snowboarding. Their programs are aimed at instructing individuals with disabilities in the various adapted skiing techniques. Their volunteer instructors are trained in adaptive ski instruction as developed by the CADS national certifying body.
Rocky Mountain Adaptive
Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA) is a registered, non-profit charity whose aim is to provide individuals with any disability the chance to access all sport and recreational activities in the Canadian Rockies. RMA adapts equipment, techniques, and presentation of instruction wherever needed, relevant to each individual needs.
Wheelchair Sports Alberta (WSA)
Wheelchair Sports Alberta (WSA) is a registered charitable non-profit association responsible for the development and delivery of provincial level sport programs and services throughout Alberta. Specific sports that fall under the WSA umbrella include wheelchair basketball, para-athletics, wheelchair rugby, sledge hockey, and wheelchair tennis.
The Edmonton Adaptive Sports Association
The Edmonton Adaptive Sports Association (EASA) provides a first-class sledge hockey program for athletes of all abilities.
The Edmonton Sled Hockey Club
The Edmonton Sled Hockey Club offers an opportunity for disabled and able-bodied athletes to participate in the game of ice hockey together in the Edmonton and surrounding area. They provide a developmental sledge hockey program and a schedule of competitions for recreational or elite athletes.