wheelchair lacrosse

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Walter Reed Wheelchair Lacrosse Clinic video


Wheelchair lacrosse gains steam

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Wheelchair lacrosse was invited in 2009. (Courtesy of Wheelchair Lacrosse USA)

Wheelchair lacrosse was invited in 2009. (Courtesy of Wheelchair Lacrosse USA)

For two hours each Tuesday afternoon, a small group of wounded troops meets in a gym at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, strapping on helmets, pads and gloves to get physical, battling one another to move a small orange ball down a court and hurl it into a goal.

The game is wheelchair lacrosse, and for these military laxbros — some novice, some experienced — the fast pace and demanding workout is just what the doctor ordered.

Similar to its field counterpart, wheelchair lacrosse calls for players to swing sticks, poke check each other and slam into each other to force possession of the ball.

The often brutal contact is what many of the players crave.


“Most of us grew up playing team-oriented, competitive, physical games. You enter the disabled sports world, it lacks those competitive team sports. Sure, you’ve got quad rugby and sled hockey, but this gives guys another option to go out there and play hard,” said Army Spec. Calvin Todd, 25, a former college lacrosse player who is at Walter Reed recovering from injuries sustained in an IED blast in 2012.

Wheelchair lacrosse was developed in 2009. Four years later, Wheelchair Lacrosse USA fields seven teams around the country, hosts workshops and has participated in tournaments nationwide.

Military participants just may be a key to reaching the goal of establishing a team in “every major city,” the organizers say.

Coach and founder of Maryland-based Freestate Wheelchair Lacrosse Mark Flounlacker said the sport has much to offer military personnel in recovery both physically and mentally.

“It keeps in tune with the warrior nature of the sport,” Flounlacker said, referring to its founding as a Native American sport in which it was perceived as cowardly to avoid an opponent. “It’s aggressive.” Plus, he said, “mentally, it’s an opportunity to learn that you are able to return to recreation and have fun.”

“You’d be going nuts even if you were a couch potato and paralyzed. But when you’re not that, and these guys aren’t, it’s a completely different dynamic. You could dwell on how bad you have it, but the faster you realize there is life out there, the better,” Flounlacker said.

The first wheelchair lacrosse clinic at Walter Reed drew 20 attendees last spring. This fall, organizers returned for another workshop and conducted a similar clinic at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Todd, who lost his left leg, says he’s excited to be part of an emerging sport. He plays regular lacrosse with his prosthetic leg and coaches youth teams in the Bethesda, Md., area.

But he enjoys wheelchair lacrosse for its unique challenges, he says.

“You need to be a little more coordinated playing in a chair because you have to maneuver the chair and still have to catch. … It really captures the essence of the sport.”

Interested service members — even able-bodied personnel are welcome (if they can hack it in a chair) — can find information on upcoming tournaments and clinics at www.wheelchairlacrosse.com or local organizations’ sites, such as Freestate Wheelchair Lacrosse’s Facebook page.

Patricia Kime is the health reporter for Military Times. She can be reached at pkime@militarytimes.com.


Wheelchair Lacrosse USA at Walter Reed Hospital

Wounded veterans at Walter Reed give wheelchair lacrosse a try

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 By , Published: September 24 E-mail the writer

They had strapped on gloves, donned helmets, grabbed their lacrosse sticks and lobbed balls around the gym Tuesday in preparation for a scrimmage. And then they got one key piece of instruction:

It’s better to throw the ball over a teammate’s head than at his feet, especially if, like the small group gathered at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center lacrosse clinic, the teammate is in a wheelchair.

(Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post) – Wounded veterans and their lacrosse instructor, Ryan Baker, right, prepare for a scrimmage during a wheelchair lacrosse clinic for patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Wounded and recovering service members lined up Tuesday on a court in Bethesda to see how the fast-paced sport commonly played on a field would translate to two wheels in a room.

Sports such as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby are better known; they’ve become staples of the Paralympic Games. Wheelchair lacrosse, by comparison, is a little less established.

It’s very similar to field lacrosse, with the same gear, same sticks and same basic rules.

“We have taken the men’s field game and tried to translate it, as best we could, to wheelchairs,” said Ryan Baker, who co-founded Wheelchair Lacrosse USA in 2009.

Baker, who was paralyzed in a car crash the day after he graduated from high school in 1991, was at Walter Reed putting on the clinic and is scheduled to do the same thing Wednesday at Fort Belvoir. He held a similar clinic at Walter Reed in the spring.

On Tuesday, Baker moved around, giving tips to the eight service members participating and advice such as why it’s easier to grab a ball thrown over the head than at the feet.

The clinic was offered as part of a program that provides recreational athletic activities to wounded service members as a way to help them recover from their injuries.

The games aren’t just about providing physical activities, said Amanda Kelly, who helps coordinate adapted sports at Walter Reed. They can also provide an outlet for some of the veterans.

Army Spec. Joshua O’Neil, an Annapolis native, suffered a broken back and pelvis from an explosive device in Afghanistan this year. He said that when he first got to Walter Reed, he didn’t know anyone so he mostly stayed in his room. The first lacrosse clinic helped him branch out and meet other people.

“It’s a kind of therapy all on its own,” said O’Neil, 24, who plays in weekly pickup games at Walter Reed. “It may not help me physically, but it definitely helps me mentally.”

Not all of the participants in Tuesday’s clinic needed wheelchairs. O’Neil can walk now, but he can’t run because of a metal plate attached to his hips, so wheelchair lacrosse gives him a chance to move quickly while playing a sport.

O’Neil, who has played lacrosse for most of his life, said the wheelchair game actually has an edge over the field game in one category.

“There’s a little more physical contact,” he said.

His fellow players agreed, saying they liked this aspect of the game.

Baker said Wheelchair Lacrosse came about because he wanted to play something team-oriented — and physical. Lacrosse is “a little more aggressive than basketball,” he said.

For veterans who used to play football and miss the hyper-physicality of the sport, that’s a selling point. Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Grashen, who played strong safety in high school, likes that lacrosse combines elements of football and basketball.

“It’s appealing because it’s a contact sport,” said Grashen, 23, of North Chicago. Grashen lost one leg below the knee and the other above the knee in Afghanistan last month. He had never played lacrosse before Tuesday’s clinic.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “But I’ll keep practicing at it and I’ll get it.”


HeadWrapz and Wheelchair Lacrosse – Pete


Rolling Surf Division: OC Lacrosse Classic 2013

Great video from Christian Payne at the 1st Annual Rolling Surf Division


Photos from the 1st Annual Rolling Surf Division at the OC Lacrosse Classic

Check out the photos from our first competitive event!  Such a great event and we can’t wait to do it again next year!




Wheelchiar Lacrosse Camp – Tampa, FL

All done with our first Florida camp and it was great! They have some great athletes that really took to it. Can’t wait to watch them develop! Check out there sweet pics courtesy of Jennifer Marshall!



Wheelchair Lacrosse at the 2013 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup

We had a great time doing two days of camps and one of competition in Oshawa, Canada during the women’s lacrosse world cup.  We got some great press from it and hopefully we can get some more countries involved in the process. 

See some of the photos from the weekend here:


We hope to get some more soon!!


Freestate Wheelchair Lacrosse

Mark from Freestate Wheelchair Lacrosse promoting the Ocean City Classic Rolling Surf Division.