Several wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center suited up with pads, helmets and gloves, as they learned the ins and outs of adaptive lacrosse during a clinic here, April 11.
The newly established adaptive lacrosse clinic, is one of many adaptive sports clinics recently organized by the Military Adaptive Sports Program, or MASP, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, or WRNMMC.
Engaging wounded, ill and injured service members, MASP offers various recreational activities year-round to help improve physical and mental quality of life, explained Amanda Kelly, Adaptive Sports site coordinator.
“Mentally and emotionally, service members benefit from the camaraderie and support of a team environment and participation allows them to focus on contributing to a team’s success,” Kelly said.
Under the Office of the Secretary of Defense, MASP is geared toward service members who are farther along in their treatment, and/or in transition out of treatment, she explained. MASP is open to all wounded, ill and injured service members who have been medically cleared to participate, as well as their family members. MASP offers various adaptive sports clinics, such as rowing, cycling, running and swimming, in addition to training service members for triathlons and the annual Warrior Games.
Kelly noted the benefits of adaptive sports, such as lower blood pressure, weight management and enhancing the rehabilitative process. The recreational activities can also mitigate negative behaviors, she said, such as poor dietary habits, drinking alcohol in excess or abusing drugs.
“Participation in athletic reconditioning activities can help curtail these potential pitfalls,” Kelly said.
Retired Navy gunners mate Paul Hurley, who participated in a recent MASP indoor rowing clinic, said the adaptive sports program provides opportunities to participate in cardiovascular activities while having fun.
During the rowing clinic, April 3, several indoor rowing machines lined the inside of Building 226, located in the north east corner of the base near the Blood Bank. As energizing music played in the background, attendees were taught the proper techniques of rowing. Volunteers with years of rowing experience assisted the group, including Esther Lofgren, who won the gold medal in rowing at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Indoor rowing is a first for Hurley, though the former petty officer said he enjoyed the total body workout.
Hurley retired from the Navy in 2009 after he was injured on a mobile security mission in Bahrain. A hit-and-run accident left him in a coma for nine days, and without his right leg. Up until his injury, he was training for a 50-mile race, and enjoyed swimming long distances.
“I was missing that. I was looking for some sort of cardio, something that gave me that same enjoyment,” Hurley said.
Adaptive sports are filling that gap for him, while aiding in his recovery, he added.
“It’s a good stress reliever, and it just helps you find your bearings. I always feel a lot better after working out. Plus, the people who go are all generally good people. They’re really fun to hang out with,” he said. “It makes you feel better about yourself.”
Sgt. Sean Karpf expressed similar sentiments. He was among the many wounded warriors at the recent lacrosse clinic.
“This is fun,” he said. “To get out here and do this, you use a lot of core [muscles]. I like to do the adaptive sports because each one of them has something else it works on [physically].”
Karpf also regularly participates in adaptive sled hockey and is currently training for a triathlon. The sergeant, who lost his left leg in June 2012 after stepping on an improvised explosive device, said he encourages others to participate in the adaptive sports program because it has helped in his recovery, both physically and mentally.
During the adaptive sports clinics, service members also have the opportunity to learn from experienced sports professionals, who often volunteer to help teach the service members. Professional lacrosse player Ray Megill, who plays for the Ohio Machine, as well as Brooks Singer, a lacrosse coach at Catholic University, in Washington, D.C., and Ryan Baker, founder of an adaptive wheelchair lacrosse organization, were among the volunteers leading the recent lacrosse clinic.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Baker said it was a privilege to work with the wounded warriors – a first for him.
“It’s something else to be able to share [our knowledge] with this group, considering everything they’ve been through, what they’ve done for our country, for us,” he said.
This month, several clinics will be held, including a cycling clinic April 23, a running clinic April 24, and a swimming clinic April 25. In May, MASP hopes to plan another lacrosse clinic, as well as a self defense clinic.