Sport Benefits for Those with Chronic Conditions

Feb 19, 2014
Tagged with: Sport Benefits for Those with Chronic Conditions

Physicians know that there are a number of benefits that sports involvement provides patients diagnosed with chronic diseases and disorders that include traumatic brain injury. Participating in physical activity or sports prevents physical deterioration that many experience from inactivity. Playing sports enhances physical function while decreasing the risk of developing secondary medical conditions. Sports also improve patient’s quality of life and well-being. At TryMunity, we remain dedicated to providing TBI sufferers, friends, family members and caregivers with information and emotional support

Sports and Traumatic Brain Injury

Dr. Wayne Gordon, associate director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, received claims from a former brain injury patient exclaiming that exercise participation played an integral role in their healing and recovery processes. Reluctant to make a correlation between the two, the individual challenged the scientist to perform a study.

Gordon began his research by devising a general quality of life study that surveyed injured and non-injured participants. The study included various questions concerning exercise participation, the type of sports individuals engaged in and the frequency of participation. Gordon discovered that injured patients who took the survey and shared that they had regularly participated in a physical activity also experienced fewer adverse cognitive symptoms.

Intrigued by the results, Dr. Gordon determined to substantiate the results of the survey with further evidence. The new study, once again involved brain injury and non-injured volunteers. Each individual underwent MRI imaging before undergoing a regimen of physical activity. Following a predetermined length of time involving exercise participation, the study concluded with repeat MRI imaging. The new images revealed increased blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that regulates memory.

In the past, scientists performed similar studies on animals and obtained the same interesting results. Gordon concluded that brain injured patients who were able to engage in physical activity, or a particular sport, experienced re-growth or regeneration of neurons in the hippocampus from enhanced circulation. The many benefits of sports include:

* Increased fitness, mobility and strength
* Enhanced learning capability
* Memory Stimulation
* Fewer symptoms of depression and fatigue

Multiple Sclerosis

Fatigue is also a common complaint of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While some believe
that feeling tired and weak is a good reason not to exert one’s self physically, physicians associated with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society advise that when cautious concerning overexertion, MS patients playing sports, or otherwise getting physical exercise, suffer fatigue less often. Similar to brain injury patients, MS sufferers also experience a number of benefits when participating in sports that include:

* Enhanced mood
* Improvement of various cognitive skills
* Increased physical endurance and stamina
* Increased opportunities for social interaction
* Decreased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes or obesity
Researchers also advise that the benefits of playing sports helps patients recover more effectively when relapses occur. However, not all types of sports are suitable for all patients and choices depend on each individual’s physical capability. Some activities may cause an undesired increase of internal body temperature. Avoiding this issue may mean the chance to learn a new sport.

Parkinson’s Disease 

Researchers agree about the short and long-term benefits associated with sports participation and Parkinson’s disease patients. Some neurologists strongly recommend intensive physical activity programs for patients because of the neuroprotective benefits of physical activity. Studies indicate that exercise slows progression of the disease and prevents complications. Patients typically experience a reduction in tremor and spasticity while enjoying improvements in:

* Balance
* Flexibility
* Gait
* Grip
* Motor coordination
* Overall strength

Depending on the extent and severity of the brain injury, patients may experience difficulty with a variety of abilities that include cognitive functions, communication and physical movement. Recovery and improvement may require weeks, months or become a lifelong process. Sometimes, the most basic of activities offered by popular childhood card games, jigsaw puzzles and drawing activities help stimulate cognitive ability and memory.

We provide families with the chance to learn about the many aspects of the disorder, the latest research and meet others enduring the challenges of dealing with brain injury. Perhaps share your story. Our motto remains “you never fail unless you stop trying.” We invite you to join our community at TryMunity by registering on our site.

Author: Shelly Duell



  • bobl07

    The benefits of sports are available for many people with a chronic conditions. However, we still need many facilities and programs to provide these opportunities.

  • Shelly Duell

    It all starts with awareness. Often there are organizations and facilities that could be utilized for such things, and all it takes is one person to take a little initiative to get the ball rolling.