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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


RADEMEYER, Cobus. Guttmann's ingenuity: The Paralympic Games as legacy of the Second World War. Historia [online]. 2015, vol.60, n.1, pp.47-59. ISSN 2309-8392.

In February 1944, the British government requested that Jewish German neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann set up a National Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury, England. The main task of the unit was to take care of the numerous soldiers and civilians suffering from spinal cord injuries (paraplegics and tetraplegics) because of the Second World War. Starting the unit from scratch, Guttmann introduced a revolutionary new programme of treatment and rehabilitation in which sport was incorporated as a form of remedial exercise and a means of social reintegration and recognition. The use of sport as part of the treatment was so successful that it led to the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948. Four years later, the games became an international event when a team of paraplegic war veterans from the Netherlands crossed the sea to compete against their British counterparts. The International Stoke Mandeville Games continued on an annual basis and in 1960, they were held outside England for the first time. The International Stoke Mandeville Games of 1960 took place in Rome shortly after the completion of the Olympic Games and became commonly known as the Paralympics. The Paralympics grew in stature and by 2012, based on spectator numbers the event became the third largest sporting event in the world. To many fans, the Paralympic Games is an exciting, yet very emotional event to watch and enjoy. Very few of these fans actually realise that the Paralympics are a legacy of the brutality of the Second World War.

Keywords : Sports history; sport and disability; Ludwig Guttmann; Paralympic Games.

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