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Loss of an extremity either from birth (known as congenital) or as a result of an accident (known as traumatic).

Prosthesis – artificial limb

BK – below knee amputee – may ski with or without prosthesis

AK – above knee amputee – usually will not ski with prosthesis

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Cerebral Palsy is caused by a nonprogressive lesion in the brain before, during or soon after birth.  It results in imperfect control of muscles, and marked by muscular incoordination, spastic paralysis and speech disturbances.  There are several types of CP including:

Spastic – distinguished by tightly contracted muscles that often override controlled movement

Athetoid – typically characterized by uncontrolled sprawling or writhing movements

Flaccid – denoted by weak, low muscle tone

Polio (Poliomyelitis)

Polio is caused by a virus that affects the spinal cord.  The Polio virus disrupts the motor signals being sent to the extremities and does not affect the sensory messages.  The individual can feel but cannot use the affected limbs.  Therefore, the muscles waste away from lack of use (known as atrophy).  Once the virus has run its course the damage to the spinal cord is permanent but nonprogressive.  With the introduction of the Salk vaccine new cases of Polio are very rare in the United States but we still see post Polio individuals from other countries.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

The spinal column has nerves exiting from it hat carry messages to and from the brain and all extremities and organs in the body.  Damage to the spinal cord interrupts these messages and can cause loss of use and or sensation to the extremities and organs below the level where the injury occurred.  The lower the injury to the spinal cord, the more function is left.  An injury to the neck may affect the use of a person’s shoulders, arms, and hands, whereas, a person injured in the lower back may only suffer paralysis in the lower parts of the legs.  The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and does not have the enzymes necessary to repair itself.  Therefore, damage to the cord is usually permanent and irreversible.

Paraplegic – total or partial or impairment of the trunk and/or lower extremities.  This means the person will have full function of their arms, neck, shoulders and hands.

Quadriplegic – total or partial paralysis or impairment of upper and lower extremities and the trunk.

Incontinence – loss of control of bladder, bowel or both.

Decubitus Ulcer – pressure sore or bed sore caused by prolonged pressure (such as sitting on a hard surface) to an area of skin that has no sensation.

Spasm or Spasticity – an involuntary shaking or movement of the extremities.

Incomplete Lesion – incomplete or partial damage to the spinal cord results in vastly differing degrees of sensation and motor loss to the affected parts of the body.

Spina Bifida or Myelodysplasia

Spina Bifida is total or partial paralysis caused by a malformation of the spinal cord in the developing embryo.  Persons with this disorder may be ambulatory or have partial paralysis of the lower extremities similar to that associated with an incomplete spinal cord injury.  Occasionally shunts are placed in the cranium, due to swelling around the brain and spinal column (known as Hydrocephalus), to drain excess spinal fluid into the abdominal cavity.  Usually, Spina Bifida children outgrow this condition.

Many persons with Spina Bifida have latex allergies.  Precautions should be taken with this population when exposed to latex and rubber products like wet suits and ski rope handles.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Acquired Brain Injury, as the name implies, is caused by a trauma to the head.  This may leave temporary or permanent damage to the brain due to pressure from swelling.  A person who has experienced an ABI may be affected in motor control, personality and cognitive abilities.  They may have poor balance or difficulty walking (known as ataxia) as well as impulsiveness or poor judgment.  Be aware of swallowing precautions if this is applicable due to the amount of spray or waves experienced during skiing.

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