Physically impaired people and their relationships with sports are traditionally associated with rehabilitation periods. Nevertheless, the benefit of sports for disabled people has been proved not only on physical but also psychological levels. Physical activities helped increase muscular strength, improve balance and mobility, and increase maximum oxygen consumption (Valliant, Bezzubyk, Daley, & Asu, 1985). Enhanced physical abilities advanced the physical capacity and daily living conditions of physically impaired people. Greater agility and coordination allow disabled individuals to gain confidence and a sense of physical control (Valliant et al., 1985). Moreover, competitional and recreational sports caused effective communication and socialization among disabled individuals. Talking about the psychological side, the presence of physical activity reported positive self-evaluation and self-attitudes among impaired individuals (Valliant et al., 1985). In addition, impaired individuals involved in sports activities were noted to have a better locus of control. The locus of control is defined as an index of individual perception of events in his or her life. Involvement in sports activities positively affects disabled people mentally by improving their self-esteem and developing a locus of control.
The study conducted by Valliant et al. (1985) observed the psychological states of 161 participants with different physical disabilities such as wheelchair, amputee, blindness, and cerebral palsy. From the chosen group, 139 individuals were actively involved in sports (Valliant et al., 1985). The participant was required to complete the Coopersmith self-esteem inventory, Rotter’s locus of control, and a social history questionnaire (Valliant et al., 1985). The questionnaire included questions related to the classification of disability, their hobbies, athletic involvement, financial conditions, satisfaction, and happiness levels. The difference between athletes and non-athletes questionnaires was references related to sport and physical activity. Participation in the survey was voluntarily distributed by researchers and coaches.
The results showed better results for impaired individuals who participated in sports rather than those who did not. Valliant et al. (1985) express that the locus of control analysis represented that the disabled athletic group was less internalized compared with the disabled non-athletic group. Moreover, the impaired individuals who participated in sports had significantly higher self-esteem regardless of sex (Valliant et al., 1985). Additionally, disabled athletes were more tent to obtain postsecondary education (Valliant et al., 1985). The impaired individuals with physical activity and sport in their life were generally happier and more satisfied (Valliant et al., 2019). The outcomes supported the assumptions regarding the difference between disabled people according to their involvement in sports. The disabled athletes had higher self-esteem, locus of attention, and life satisfaction level.
The study conducted 36 years ago is still relevant for understanding the importance of sport in disabled persons’ life. As suggested in the study, the disabled athletic groups were better in most of the categories. They had good self-esteem, were more educated, more satisfied, and were happier in life (Valliant et al., 1985). Moreover, elevated mood was observed among the disabled athletes involved in sports. Valliant et al. (1985) define sports as a tool that plays a twofold role. On the one side, it helps people overcome unpleasant psychological settings regarding their physical and mental conditions. On the other hand, it raises energy and teaches to direct it to specific goals—communication with other people is recognized as a positive motivator.
In conclusion, it could be stated that physical activity positively affects the impaired individuals, both physical and psychological participation in sports activities related to higher self-esteem and greater satisfaction level. The empirical study revealed that disabled athletes obtain high levels of confidence and better locus concentration. This positively influences the communication patterns of disabled people.
Valliant, P. M., Bezzubyk, I., Daley, L., & Asu, M. E. (1985). Psychological impact of sport on disabled athletes. Psychological Reports, 56(3), 923-929. doi:10.2466/pr0.1922.214.171.1243