Should individuals with disabilities, and in particular, amputees, be eligible to play sports on standard athletic teams? A recent victory for one American basketball player appears to have answered this question in the affirmative.
An eighteen-year-old Colorado student, Bailey Roby, has just scored a great win in his personal life. He is now able to play basketball for his chosen team again. This is a landmark victory for athletes with disabilities. Bailey is a double amputee. He was born without fibulae in his lower legs, and they were amputated when he was seven months old. He was fitted with his first prosthetic limbs as a toddler. He started playing basketball in the eighth grade at Mountain Vista High School in Colorado, on the Unified Sports Team, which accepted players with disabilities.
He turned out to be such a good player that he made varsity, but last year, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) decided that Roby was not eligible to play due to his disabilities. This organization stated that they were concerned about Roby's safety. They suggested that Bailey may be facing much tougher opposition: in essence, that there may be an unfair advantage, a risk to others, or alteration of the rules of the sport. Initially, the CHSAA issued Bailey with a letter of authorization to play for the varsity team, but then changed their minds, citing the above reasons.
Bailey's parents protested, saying that their son's playing did not pose a danger either to himself or to other players. A petition was subsequently started on the Care2 website, that the CHSAA let Bailey play in this team, and it was signed by more than 2,100 supporters. The petition was subsequently posted on Twitter, and achieved it's purpose. The CHSAA then reassessed this case, and ruled that Bailey can in fact continue to play in the team. However, the victory is only on a game-by-game basis at present. Before each game, the opponents must come to a safety agreement. Bailey's father Scott, in speaking to the Denver Post, said that they were really hoping for a more permanent agreement, and not just for him, but also for other differently-abled players who will come after him.
In the past, students with disabilities have not always been able to participate in school sports due to lack of opportunity. However, in January 2013, the US Department of Education ruled that students with disabilities must have equal opportunities to participate in school athletics. Nowadays, there are more and more programs for such persons, such as wheelchair basketball or even a place on Special Olympics teams. In addition, new technologies, such as the Ossur Flex-Run prosthetic legs that Bailey Roby uses, make it possible for disabled sportsmen to participate in games they would have been able to, not so long ago in history. In short? There is no reason at all why someone like Bailey should be prevented from playing a sport, in which he clearly excels.
Picture courtesy Flickr creative commons.