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Craig on Wheelchair Rugby

Monday, February 15th, 2010

“I’m 32 and work for Lockheed Martin in information research. I started using a wheelchair when I was 21. I have a neurological condition where I can’t really feel pain. I used to walk, but my legs have been getting weaker and weaker with time. My doctor said that I should start using a wheelchair, as I get really tired from walking. Now, I use the wheelchair 95-98% of the time to save my energy and legs.

“About three years ago, I started playing wheelchair rugby. The team started in about 2006 with support from the National Institute of Health. I started showing up for practices and eventually got my chair, which is custom made out of aircraft aluminum. This chair is only 25 lbs and costs $3,000. The chair is made specifically for wheelchair rugby and designed for a lot of impact. In this sport, you are trying to hunt down people and hit them.

I tried out wheelchair basketball, but rugby is more active and high contact. It is kill or be killed.

“I tried out wheelchair basketball, but rugby is more active and high contact. It is kill or be killed. It is like football, almost. We have about 12 people on our team. You only need four people on the court at a time. I was born hard of hearing, which makes this sport even more interesting. In wheelchair rugby, everything is about communication and yelling: go left, go right, pick, he’s coming up behind you, stuff like that. I can’t hear well, so I have to be constantly paying attention to everything.

“Most of the guys on the team have their injuries from car or diving accidents. Fortunately, I’m on the higher end as I can take care of myself, but there are guys on the team who need help getting in-and-out of their chairs. But, we don’t really look at each other as being disabled. We are just normal people who get together to play rugby. That’s all it is.”

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