Reeve Foundation backs athletes with disabilities

March 16, 2009
The Indy Brawlers is a group of eight quadriplegic men and women who are unafraid to play a sport that's known as "murderball."

"I don't know if you've ever seen quad rugby played before, but it's amazing what these men and women do in a wheelchair," said Joseph Canose, vice president for quality of life at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in Short Hills, N.J. "Fortunately, the chairs take most of the beating."

The Reeve foundation is supporting the Brawlers this year with a $16,645 grant to Rehabilitation Hospitals of Indiana Sports Program.

"It will ensure that we're able to provide them with opportunities to continue on at the national level," said Janeen Earwood, president of the RHI Sports Program.

In addition to quadriplegic rugby, the RHI Sports Program offers several competitive sports, including beep baseball for people with visual impairment, golf and waterskiing.

Earwood said the sports program also offers recreational activities to people who have a new disability, or haven't tried sports before.

Quad rugby is one of the more strenuous sports available to people in wheelchairs. Earwood said it's an alternative to wheelchair basketball, which requires a level of hand function that's not available to people with neck injuries.

Ranging in age from 16 to 40, the Brawlers come from throughout Indiana for weekly practice at a 10th Street gym. They are 14-8 for the season, which runs from fall through March. They advanced to regional play early in March and were aiming for the national tournament in Louisville.

The Reeve foundation grant will pay for equipment, practice space, travel, uniforms and referees.

Canose said the RHI Sports Program's application showed a direct impact on participants' health. He added that the vetting process includes a review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funds the Reeve foundation's quality-of-life initiative.

The Reeve foundation has awarded grants to the RHI Sports Program in the past.

"They're one of the few places that people in Indiana are going to be able to find programs like this," Canose said.


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