Supporting the Paralympics

As the excitement for the Paralympics builds, we take a look at a few of the roles responsible for helping some members of ParalympicsGB reach and compete in the Games.

The role of Technology

Technology plays an important part in enhancing performance, with developments in fields such as aerodynamics and engineering being applied to sport. British wheelchair athletes visited the BAE Systems wind tunnel, normally used to test fighter jets, to understand how their body position affects wind resistance. This allowed the team to improve athletes’ seating positions, as well as highlight their best posture for racing in different track situations.

Engineering, Science and Medicine

Some athletes competing in the Games, such as Oscar Pistorius, use prosthetic limbs. The development of artificial limbs or other devices which replace missing body parts is known as Prosthetics, and in recent years major advancements have been made in this area. Research in Prosthetics brings together specialists in Biomechanics, which looks at how mechanical laws relate to movement in living organisms, and Bioengineering, which applies engineering techniques to biological processes.


Athletes with prosthetics are likely to have benefited from the expertise of specialist medical team

in amputee rehabilitation. Such teams work to assist people who have lost a limb achieve function and mobility. This involves artificial limb assessment, prescription, manufacture, fitting and training. Prosthetists make and fit artificial limbs. Physiotherapists focus on exercise, strength, balance and mobility, whilst Occupational Therapists help patients adapt and regain independence in everyday activities.


The British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO) has further information on studying for a Rehabilitation Studies MSc.

Supporting competitors

Some athletes are enabled to compete through supporters in the field. Athletes who are blind or partially sighted often compete with a guide. Running guides run alongside the athlete, attached by a rope. They talk throughout the race, updating the athlete on their position on the track. Guides in field events, such as long jump, remain stationary and direct athletes through shouting and clapping. In swimming, tappers stand at each end of the pool and tap the swimmer with a long pole to let them know they are nearing the end.

Find out more

The London 2012 Paralympic Games runs from  29 August – 9 September.

You can watch 780 hours of live sporting coverage on the official website of the Paralympic Movement.

The BBC website has useful information on the differences between the two sets of Games.

See NHS careers for further information on working in the NHS and visit icould’s Focus on Healthcare for details of non-clinical roles in the sector.

Image courtesy of  London 2012.

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