Annually, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Rory Cooper, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh/Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center Human Engineering Research Laboratories, participates in a multi-event sports and rehabilitation program for military service veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations, or certain neurological problems. Attracting more than 500 athletes each year, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. Competitive events at the Wheelchair Games include swimming, table tennis, weightlifting, archery, air guns, basketball, nine-ball, softball, quad rugby, bowling, handcycling, wheelchair slalom, power soccer, a motorized wheelchair rally, and track and field. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience, or age.
As part of a national campaign organized by the VA, VA Canteen Services, and General Mills, veteran athletes from the 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, including Dr. Cooper, appeared on Cheerios cereal boxes (pictured) available through the VA Canteen Services and Bases Exchanges. Dr. Cooper was the only veteran from Pennsylvania featured on the boxes. The availability of the veteran-covered Cheerios coincided with a major fund raising announcement for VA-affiliated Fischer Houses.
Sponsors of the Wheelchair Games are committed to improving the quality of life for veterans with disabilities and fostering better health through sports competition. While past Games have produced a number of national and world-class champions, the Games also provide opportunities for newly disabled veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other wheelchair athletes. Usually, one quarter of the competitors have never participated before in any type of organized wheelchair sports competition. Spokane, Washington will host the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, July 13-18, 2009.
Dr. Rory Cooper is also chair and professor of rehabilitation science and technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and professor of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper is a professor in the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Cooper also remains actively involved in industry as the director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Center of Excellence for Wheelchairs and Related Technology, a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center.
Illustration: General Mills, Inc.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations News Release (03/04/09)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (03/06/09)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (03/07/09)
University Times (03/19/09)
Pitt Chronicle (03/23/09)
28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, July 25-29, 2008, Omaha, NE
Bio: Dr. Rory Cooper