A new study suggests that those who play adaptive sports could have a higher likelihood of employment, leading to a possibly greater economic impact.

The study was recently published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.

According to a media release from the University of Houston, Michael Cottingham, PhD, associate professor in Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston and the study’s principal investigator, and his team surveyed 131 wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball athletes about the number of years they participated in sports before and after their disability, as well as about their employment before and after disability onset. The researchers also asked the athletes various demographic questions.

After studying the survey data, Cottingham states in the release that, “Our analysis shows that playing an additional year of adaptive sport is associated with an approximately 4% increase in likelihood of employment every year for 10 years before the benefits flatten out.”

The release explains that the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is about 29% compared to a national employment rate of 95.4%. If a person needs to use a wheelchair as a result of his or her disability, the rate drops to 18%, according to the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Cottingham notes in the release that previous research has found that adaptive sports provide a strong social support system, as well as increased self-confidence and a peer-education system, which may help those who participate in adaptive sports to identify resources to gain employment and mentorship.

He adds, however, that that the number of years since disability onset was positively associated with employment, and the more severe the injury the less likely the individual maintained employment.

“The data also show this negative relationship between injury severity and employment becomes less significant the longer they played sports. Over time, the fitness and health benefits are probably mitigating the disadvantage of having a more severe impairment,” he states.

Cottingham suggests that the study results support a stronger commitment and promotion of adaptive sports. He also notes that playing adaptive sports could have economic benefits as well.

“If an additional 100,000 individuals, or 2% of the working-age wheelchair population in the country, were to play adaptive sports for only 1 year, our study estimates approximately 4,000 of them would become employed, and this new employment would add approximately $40 million to the economy in the form of household income,” he states.

[Source(s): University of Houston, EurekAlert]