National Spinal Injuries Centre team win the 2023 inter spinal unit games

Date: 26/09/2023 | Category: News 2023

The annual Inter Spinal Unit Games provide an opportunity for recently injured adults to discover the life transforming benefits that come from taking part in sport. This year, 11 spinal units from around the UK and Europe took part, with our own team from the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital declared the overall winners.

NSIC Stoke Mandeville ISUG 2023 Winners

The Inter Spinal Unit Games is run each year by WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport. This year 72 competitors with spinal cord injuries representing their spinal units travelled to the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, Stoke Mandeville Stadium alongside their teammates and physios. Eleven units took part in the event, including teams from the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow, Musgrave Park in Belfast the game’s first European entrants the Institut Guttmann from Barcelona who brought a team of four ‘Back to the Origins’ for an unforgettable experience.

Over the course of 3 days earlier this month the participants were able to try 20 different sports, all whilst being supported by qualified coaches and enthusiastic volunteers. The sports included, athletics, tennis, sitting volleyball, bowls, rowing, golf, wheelchair rugby, and handcycling, to name a few. For many participants this event was the first time away from the hospital environment, or the first time away from the comforts of home, so everything was done to make the experience as stress free and enjoyable as possible. The social get together is just as important as the sport as participants have the opportunity to share stories and thoughts with others who’ve experienced a spinal cord injury.

Josh, 35 from Kettering was injured at work and now has Cauda Equina syndrome.

Josh_NSIC wheelchair basket ball

He spent 3 months at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to continue his rehabilitation. “To be around like-minded people in the same situation is so important as you can talk about topics you can’t with everyone else. For me playing sport and going to the gym is a great release and the camaraderie you build with your team is also so important. I really liked the basketball and rugby and tried powerlifting and kayaking for the first time. The atmosphere here is so lovely and there are plenty of people on hand to help. Most importantly it’s just good fun!”

Janine, 59 from Wokingham also represented the winning team:

Janine_NSIC inter spinal unit games 2023

“I did my rehab at Stoke Mandeville Hospital after a spontaneous spinal bleed. Following surgery to release the pressure I arrived at the unit in May 2023 and have only recently returned home. I’ve always enjoyed playing sport socially but being active is now essential for me after injury. Coming to the Games was amazing and what WheelPower offers makes such a big difference to people like myself.”

James, 20 from Epsom, Surrey also shared his thoughts on the event. “I had my injury last November. I was a professional trampolinist and had an accident that fractured my C5/6 vertebrate. I spent 5 months at Stanmore, London and underwent loads of physio. When the Games was mentioned I was interested in representing the team and I thought ‘why not’. So far I’ve had a great time and tried loads of different things. When I get home I might look into the shooting locally and maybe even rowing too when I’m a bit stronger, and just see where it takes me.”

Carles Yepes, Physical education specialist from Institut Guttmann from Barcelona, said: “It was an honour to visit the place where the Paralympic movement started and to take part in the Games. Sir Ludwig Guttmann came to Barcelona in 1965 to open the first spinal cord injury hospital in Spain and we are proud to be able to carry his name today. We had a wonderful week at Stoke Mandeville and thank WheelPower for taking care of us.”

Joanna Camp, Head Physiotherapist, National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital: “The inter spinal unit games is one of the highlights of our year and attendance is always keenly contested by our staff. It provides an amazing opportunity for the team to try different sports, experience competition within these sports and move from sport for rehabilitation to sport for fun.

We are hugely proud of the team and all they have achieved. It is a pleasure to be involved and we are grateful to Wheelpower for running the games each year.”

Emily Weller, Head of Sport at WheelPower said: “The Inter Spinal Unit Games is an incredibly important event in the calendar and once again in 2023 we saw the huge benefits that come from taking part in this life changing event. Many of our participants arrive at Stoke Mandeville with nerves and anxieties but once the event begins you see the real power of sport in action, and smiles and joy just grows day after day. We are grateful to all of our coaches, volunteers, our physical activity advisors and physios for making this event such a welcoming one and we hope that following this experience many of those people we watched this week will go on to enjoy sport and activity for many years to come.”

The Inter Spinal Unit Games first took place in 1988 and in the years since has seen many thousands of recently injured people discover talents for sport that have led some of them all the way to the Paralympics. This year WheelPower and the NSIC at Stoke Mandeville are also celebrating 75 years since founder of the Paralympic movement, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, first hosted an archery tournament between two groups on the lawns of the hospital. The visionary work continues through the NSIC and WheelPower to this very day who in partnership provide movement, activity and sporting opportunity for patients during their rehabilitation.

An estimated 2,500 people are paralysed each year in the UK and the Games continue to deliver a vital opportunity for everyone who attends.