One Great Idea by Kathleen A. Martin Ginis
About the series
About the author
Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, Ph.D., O.M.C., is a professor in both the Department of Medicine and School of Health and Exercise Sciences as well as Reichwald Family UBC Southern Medical Program Chair in Preventive Medicine.
Prior to the Second World War, the prognosis was grim for any person who sustained a spinal cord injury. Life expectancy was two years and quality of life was poor. Indeed, people with quadriplegia and paraplegia were labeled ‘invalids’ and relegated to the sidelines of society.
In 1943, renowned German neurosurgeon Dr. Ludwig Guttmann established the spinal cord injury unit at England’s Stoke-Mandeville Hospital. He championed early specialized care for spinal cord injured servicemen, drastically reducing mortality rates. Moreover, Guttmann had a revolutionary idea: physical activity could be used for physical, social and emotional rehabilitation.
Guttmann introduced his patients to wheelchair polo, basketball, and archery. He founded the Stoke Mandeville Games which evolved into the Paralympic Games. Guttmann was the visionary who showed there is life after spinal cord injury; a life that can be just as rich and fulfilling as life before an injury. He also showed the vital role of physical activity in restoring physical function, fostering community reintegration, and perhaps most importantly, instilling hope.
Through my research, I extend Guttmann’s legacy by studying the design and delivery of physical activity to maximize impact on the physical, social and psychological well-being of people living with spinal cord injury.