Today’s disabled athletes have access to a wide range of different technologies designed to enhance their performance while competing on the field. Not only is this tech state-of-the-art, but it gives these athletes a chance to compete in the same level as the non-disabled.
One of the latest participants in the design of high-tech assistive technologies is BMW, who unveiled a carbon fibre riding seat that will be used in track events such as the 100-meter marathon. BMW began with 3D scans of the athletes and their chairs, which were then analysed for performance and improved on: these new chairs had a minimum aerodynamic control profile and a stiffer chassis was given to stabilize the wheels. Also for each athlete, BMW custom-made riding gloves will keep the pressures off of hitting the tires. Athletes typically use thermoplastic pellets, tape, and glue to create their own gloves, although this can make it difficult for them to use touch-screen devices, such as for a game of gambling online after a competition.
Invented as a rehabilitation game for visually impaired World War II vets by Hanz Lorenzen and Sett Reindle, goalball is performed by two groups of three players who have to throw a ball into the target of their rivals. Because the participants are visually impaired and carry blindfolds, the ball is embedded with a bell to indicate to rivals their whereabouts, who are trying to prevent the ball from arriving at their target. Beep Baseball uses a comparable idea, but the ball and bases contain a beeping system that was initially intended to help players find each other.
Prosthetic walking handles, first created as the Flex-Foot by engineer and inventor Van Phillips, are made of carbon fibre which holds and releases energy with each move. The prosthesis devices are used by transfemoral (above knee) and transtibial (below knee) amputees and may include rotating knee joints, waterproofing, a steel spike cap, and a bent form for higher mobility and a more normal running gait.
After arriving in Athens in 2004, Recumbent handcycles are set to be a part of the Paralympics in the future. The hand-powered roadsters feature either reclining or straight / forward trunk-power seating systems, requiring higher abdominal power as the whole torso is used in each stroke. The fork steer – the most common among cyclists with low-and high-level spinal cord accidents – for instance, works with a traditional frame and an autonomous tuning fork, while vehicles with a lean steer (or lean-to-steer) have an upper frame that swivels over the reduced frame and needs the rider to lean the bicycle in turns. Typically, lean steering is used by cyclists with lesser amputations.
American archer Matt Stutzman, a 2012 silver medallist, is capable of shooting with his feet, his mouth, and a cap release support tied to a belt around his upper chest. Gun rests, arrow stringers, slings, and adaptive prosthetics can also be used by athletes. In 1948, in the original version of the Paralympics, held just outside London (and then known as the Stoke-Mandeville Games for the Paralysed), 16 athletes competed in archery, the only sport that year featured.