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Inter Spinal Unit attracts 136 recently paralysed sports participants

Wheelpower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, welcomed 136 recently paralysed men and women representing 15 spinal injury units from Ireland and the UK this month.

All were willing to give the 26 sports a try before entering competition sports at the Inter Spinal Unit Games that took place at Stoke Mandeville Stadium from April 9-11.

Chris Keogh, an amateur footballer who became paralysed after dislocating his neck playing the sport, enjoyed taking part in the games:

"Since I had my injury I haven’t really been involved in too much and this has been a great week to try out everything that I didn’t even think was possible to do in a wheelchair, including wheelchair fencing, which I didn’t even know existed 12 months ago.

It’s been absolutely great to be in an environment where people are in a very similar situation to me where they’ve just been under a year injured, it’s been fantastic and I have made lots of new friends, so I’ve really enjoyed it.

Keogh received messages from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Eded Hazard and JAvi Hernandez and is now living back home with his fiance and working two days a week at PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper).

"I had the accident two days before I was due to start my new job and they have been fantastic, they were in contact with me when I was in intensive care and said whatever happens there’s a job waiting for me, when I was ready and they had their own internal doctors give me a look over, they’ve been absolutely fantastic."

Head of Sport and Physical Activity Pasan Kularatne said sport has an important physical and mental benefits for those who have experienced life-changing spinal cord injuries.

She said: "At WheelPower we offer an opportunity through the Inter Spinal Unit Games for participants to find a sport or activity which suits them and can help them see a positive future with sport as part of their new life. Our ongoing programme to support people with spinal injuries supports them during their rehabilitation and in the future.”

Gary Edmunds took first place in the male paraplegic division for tennis: "overwhelmed. I’ve never played wheelchair tennis before and to win this award for it, well, it’s left me a little bit dumbfounded! I may well continue wheelchair tennis at this rate!"