Standard and adaptive athletic equipment is used by athletes for two basic purposes: 1. to increase enjoyment and performance in sports, recreation and exercise 2. to decrease injuries. Performance is important to athletes, but avoidance of serious injury is critical.The role of protective athletic equipment is reflected in the dramatic reduction of sports-related brain injury with the use of a helmet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Center reports that use of a head helmet reduces head injuries by 85% and severe brain injuries by 88%. Children, older athletes, and high school athletes with autism and seizures are particularly vulnerable to sports injuries.
The National Institutes of Health report the popularity of sports amongst American children and adults, and confirm the protective role of athletic equipment in informal games and competitions.Approximately 38 million American children and adolescents participate in organized sports each year, and approximately 170 million American adults participate in sports or another form of exercise. People with physical, sensory, cognitive and mental disabilities are counted amongst this large group, ranging from elite, Paralympic competitors to neighborhood children.
American law recognizes the civil right of people with disabilities to participate in sports. Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act mandate accommodations for athletes with disabilities in all sports, recreation and exercise programs/activities that receive federal funds.
A vast variety of adaptive athletic equipment is designed and manufactured for athletes with disabilities. This equipment includes braille watches, audio compasses, electrically powered fishing reels, sit skis, prosthetic arms with golf grip attachments, and sail boats with automated sheeting/steering systems.
Regardless of disability status, athletic equipment should be appropriate for both the sport and the athlete's body. Changes in athletic equipment reflect advancements in technology, so it is important to consult with knowledgeable suppliers before an initial purchase and to check- in at intervals about new developments. As children grow and middle-aged adults widen, changes in physical dimensions require periodic adjustments in equipment.
Great equipment will never replace great effort and training, but it can give you the chance to play your best game. Most importantly, first-rate protective equipment will reduce your chances of injury if it is properly and consistently used.