Quality of Life Spotlight: Logan University

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on June 27, 2022 # Quality of Life

When the USA Para Powerlifting (USAPP) program faced a rough transition in 2016, Logan University, a small health science institution in Chesterfield, Missouri, stepped in to help.

“At the time, the program didn’t have a facility or organization that was overseeing its management and working with it to help with its development. It needed a home,” says Dr. Kelley Humphries-Mascoll, Logan University’s executive director of Paralympic operations. “Because of a former staff member’s connection to the sport, Logan was able to step in and fulfill some of those needs and then ultimately take on the sport full time.”

To deepen that commitment, Logan created a Paralympics Operations department, which is dedicated to supporting adaptive sports. In 2021, the department received a $25,000 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant to help expand the grassroots and development operations for para powerlifting.

With grant funding, the program added to its Regional Hub Initiative, a network of adaptive sports organizations affiliated with USAPP. The initiative’s goal is to increase access to the sport so individuals living with paralysis can build the upper body strength required for independent living, participate in physical activity and healthy living, and engage with social and emotional support networks in the para powerlifting community.

“A lot of athletes who participate in Paralympic-style powerlifting live with a spinal cord injury,” says Dr. Humphries-Mascoll. “Like most adaptive sports, specialized equipment can be expensive. When athletes can use an adaptive bench in a local gym, they have more access to participate in the sport.”

The grant funded the addition of ten new hubs in local gyms and disability centers across the country to the current 11 hubs in eight states. Many hubs are individually owned, free-standing gyms, which create a truly inclusive environment for athletes.

“We are hoping to change the narrative surrounding the sport. You don’t need to go to a specialized facility to work out,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “If you are an individual who has a disability, you should be able to go to any gym to participate. There should be equipment available as well as staff with the knowledge and training to encourage and coach you to the next level. I think that’s something we are seeing as this initiative has rolled out.”

Hub locations were chosen by local interest with a focus on where current para powerlifting athletes live. Locations funded by the grant include Endeavor Games (Edmod, Oklahoma), Lonestar Para-Athletic Development Academy (San Antonio, Texas), Morgan's Wonderland (San Antonio, Texas), Move United (Rockville, Maryland), Peak Sports Performance (Overland Park, Kansas), Rochester Performance Gym (Rochester Hills, Michigan), Samaritan's Walk (Richmond, Virginia), Sutherlin Fitness and Athletic Performance (Rosemount, Minnesota), The Center for Individual's with Physical Challenges (Tulsa, Oklahoma) and The Training Hall by Odd E. Haugen (Newbury Park, California).

“There are a lot of local gym owners who honestly don’t realize how easy it is to be an inclusive space,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “It just takes some meaningful consideration — especially if you have the support of an organization like Logan that’s willing to assist in getting the equipment and training your staff. It opens so many possibilities, and barriers can be removed, physical and invisible barriers.”

Once established, all of the hubs host a level 1 clinic and competition to introduce new participants in the area to the sport. Four hubs received specific training for youth athletes. One hub was specifically opened for military personnel.

“It is so important for athletes to use the equipment in a safe manner,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “And if an athlete falls in love with the sport, they can train at a high level and advance their dreams of completing domestically and internationally.”

While it’s difficult to track the exact number of times the equipment is used, the hubs have serviced over 75 people who self-reported to be living with paralysis, as well as 80 caregivers and family members. Approximately 78% of participants surveyed strongly agreed to feel more confident in their abilities to participate in the sport after participating in a regional hub event. All of the regional hub participants strongly agreed to feeling comfortable training to participate in the sport, and 89% strongly agreed that they felt the event improved their overall self-esteem.

“Elite athletes in this sport can bench press three times their body weight, and that’s without using their legs. With no use of their lower extremities, that is quite a feat,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “It is a true testament of upper body strength when you can’t use your legs, and you have to be able to bench without them.”

In fact, the universal design behind the adaptive equipment can be impactful for anyone looking to have significant strength gains. Many gym owners are seeing that this piece of equipment actually makes able-bodied athletes stronger.

“People don’t think about it like that. They think disabled equipment is just for a disabled person, but that’s not the case,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “This equipment actually benefits an able-bodied athlete much more than the equipment they train on regularly.”

After the successful launch of the grant-funded hubs, the program has set a goal to open six additional hubs annually. They are also looking to integrate the Paralympics Operations department with some of the university’s academic programs, including internships and clinical rotations as well as certification and continuing education courses.

In July, Logan University will host the 2022 World Para Powerlifting Parapan American Open Championships. Next year the program plans to partner with Move United to become more involved on a multisport level, whether that’s helping with the management or continuing to provide services to other sports the way they do for para powerlifting.

“We want to expand our reach into the adaptive sports movement; that’s our ultimate goal,” says Humphries-Mascoll. “We are very grateful to receive the Reeve Foundation grant, and we grew a lot as a result of it. The grant made it possible for us to be in a position to host the world event this year. The direct and indirect impact of the grant is truly incredible.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.