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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Curling Paralympian

Jacqui Kapinowski

Jacqui Kapinowski teaching curling at a workshop

By: Janelle LoBello

Name: Jacqui Kapinowski
Injury: Stiff Person Syndrome
Date of Injury: 2003

Four months to the day after she began learning the sport of curling, Jacqui Kapinowski won her first Paralympic Bronze medal in wheelchair curling -- the first ever medal in the event for the USA. A year later in 2009, the team placed fourth.

"We're hungry this year," says Kapinowski. "Placing fourth made us hungrier!" Similar to shuffleboard, wheelchair curling consists of one tournament where players take turns pushing stones down a sheet of ice towards a series of circles. The team with the most points, or stones, closest to the center circle wins.

Kapinowski, now 47, is one of the five members, and the only female, on the 2010 USA wheelchair curling Paralympic team. "I like being the only female," laughs Kapinowski.

Kapinowski has been in a wheelchair for seven years since being diagnosed with the rare disorder Stiff Person Syndrome. Defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "Stiff-person syndrome (SPS) is a rare neurological disorder with features of an autoimmune disease.  SPS is characterized by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms." Though she now has to rely on her wheelchair, Kapinowski does not let it slow her down.

"I was always into sports," says Kapinowski, who is also married with two children. "I was always a runner. I used to run 7-10 miles everyday no matter what the weather was." Since being in a wheelchair, Kapinowski taught herself how to wheelchair race.

She has completed 52 marathons; including the Boston, New York City, and Marine Corps marathons, half marathons, four triathlons, and countless other smaller races over the years prior to and after living in a wheelchair.

"I fell in love with curling since the first time I threw a stone," explains Kapinowski, who trains in Madison, Wisconsin; Utica, New York; and Plainfield, New Jersey. "I don't take it lightly and I train hard."

Curling offers something different than racing for Kapinowski.  "Racing pushes my heart to get a better time than the last race. Curling makes my brain work constantly. It's about strategy. Focusing on shots, trying to outscore the other team, reading the ice before them."

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Learn more about sports and competition in your area!

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The Adaptive Sports Center (ASC)A non-profit organization located in Colorado that provides year-round recreation activities for people with disabilities and their families.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Golf for People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Nutrition and Weight (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Sports and Competition (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Fitness and Exercise (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on FES Treadmill Information Sheet (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on FES Treadmill Information Sheet (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking (PDF)

American Association of AdaptedSportWorks to enhance the health, independence and self-sufficiency of youths with physical disabilities by facilitating adapted sports programs in local communities, in cooperation with schools, parks and recreation, YMCA/YWCAs, hospitals, parents and other groups.

Blaze Sports501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advances the lives of youth and adults with physical disability through sport and healthy lifestyles. BlazeSports provides sports training, competitions, summer camps and other sports and recreational opportunities for youth and adults with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, visual impairment or blindness as well as other physical disabilities.

Craig Hospital: SCI Health and WellnessWith funding from the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, has developed educational materials to help people with spinal cord injuries live in the community maintain their health. Topics include skin care, exercise, heart disease, weight control, alcohol abuse and conditions related to the aging body. Use the link above and click on SCI Health and Wellness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Features numerous articles and resources on fitness, nutrition and healthy living.

Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.

Disabled Sports USAOffers nationwide sports rehabilitation programs to anyone with a permanent physical disability. Activities include winter skiing, water sports, summer and winter competitions, fitness and special sports events. DSUSA, as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is the governing body for winter sports for all athletes with disabilities, and for summer sports for amputee athletes. Nationwide chapter network of sports and rec programs.

Inclusive Fitness CoalitionAddresses the policy, environmental and societal issues associated with the lack of access to physical activity among people with disabilities.

ILRU: RRTC on SCI: Exercise InformationThe ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization) program is a national center for information, training, research, and technical assistance in independent living. Its goal is to expand the body of knowledge in independent living and to improve utilization of results of research programs and demonstration projects in this field. It is a program of TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research), a nationally recognized medical rehabilitation facility for persons with disabilities.

The Handicapped Scuba AssociationPromotes the physical and social well being of people with disabilities through the exhilarating sport of scuba diving.

Hand CyclingWhether for fitness, serious competition, or pure recreation, here's a sport that can be enjoyed by many and provide quite the "ride" at the same time.

International Paralympic CommitteeThe International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions.

Life Rolls OnLRO is the story of able-bodied individuals, working in concert with those with spinal cord injury, to motivate each other with the inspirational message of achievement in the face of extreme adversity. Life Rolls On utilizes action sports through our flagship program, They Will Surf Again, which pushes the boundary of possibility for those with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.

The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD)Resources promoting physical activity for people, and for health, fitness and exercise professionals.

National Wheelchair Basketball AssociationBasketball is perhaps the oldest organized sport for athletes in wheelchairs. The game is fast and fun, and played in dozens of cities across the U.S.

The National Center on AccessibilityNSCD provides recreation for children and adults with disabilities. In addition to recreational downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, NSCD provides year-round competition training to ski racers with disabilities. Summer recreation opportunities include biking, hiking, in-line skating, sailing, therapeutic horseback riding, white water rafting, baseball, fishing, rock climbing for the blind, and camping.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and SportsInformation on making exercise an important part of your life

Quad RugbyFormerly known as murderball, Quad Rugby is a game for quads who can push a chair. Fast, rough and very competitive.

The Uppertone SystemIntroduced in 1990 by a C4-C5 quadriplegic, the Uppertone System allows people with C4-C5 paralysis and below to do upper body exercises necessary for rehabilitation and maintenance, without assistance.

The United States Tennis AssociationTennis has been adapted for the wheelchair player: the ball can bounce two times. This allows chair-players to give standup players a run for the their money. The sport is growing fast and is very competitive at the elite level. Click on "community tennis."

U.S. ParalympicsA division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, it is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and promoting excellence in the lives of people with physical disabilities through education, sports programs and partnerships with community organizations, medical facilities and government agencies.

World T.E.A.M. SportsUnites people with and without disabilities through unique athletic events taking place all over the world.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.