Sports are physical activities that provide physical, psychological, and social benefits for individuals with spinal cord injury/disease (SCI/D). However, most sports research has been completed on individuals with SCI/D who are aged <50 years, even though the majority of people with SCI/D are aged >50 years. Despite substantial evidence supporting sports for older adults not living with a disability, there is currently no research examining the impact of sports for adults with SCI/D aged ≥50 years.
To explore the perceptions and experiences of individuals with SCI/D aged 50 years or older who participate in sports in the community.
Fifteen adults with SCI/D aged ≥50 years who participated in community-based sports were interviewed. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Conventional content analysis was applied to the data.
The overarching theme identified was that sports are fun and adaptable physical activities that have the potential to optimize physical, psychological, and social health in all people with SCI/D, regardless of age. Within this overarching theme, six categories surfaced: (1) importance of participating in sports later in life, (2) prioritizing health over performance, (3) uncertainties about participating in sports later in life, (4) reflections on participating in sports later in life, (5) beliefs on alternative sports involvement, and (6) advice for other aging adults with SCI/D considering sports.
Sports are perceived to provide physical, psychological, and social benefits for individuals with SCI/D aged 50 years or older. Findings will inform the development of future adaptive sports programs for older individuals with SCI/D.