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How to play sports with a prosthetic arm

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

This is your go-to guide on how to play sports with a prosthetic arm. We'll touch on the following:

  1. Can I get involved with sports whilst wearing a prosthetic arm?

  2. Choosing the right prosthetic arm for playing sports

  3. What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with sports?

  4. What’s a myoelectric prosthetic arm and can I play sports with one?

  5. Why might someone think playing the guitar with a prosthetic arm could be difficult?

  6. Koalaa’s approach to playing sports with a prosthetic arm

  7. User Stories - Lillie

Playing sports promotes a healthy and active lifestyle. It fosters physical fitness, mental well-being, and social connections. Koalaa understands the importance of inclusivity and encourages everyone to participate in sports! In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to play sports with a prosthetic arm.

 

Can I get involved with sports whilst wearing a prosthetic arm?


Prosthetic arm for kayaking

The first question you might have is whether it’s possible to participate in sports whilst wearing a prosthetic and the answer is absolutely!


There are lots of tools available to assist someone who has a limb difference with their chosen activity if they decide they would like to look into assistive devices and prosthetics.


A prosthetic arm is an assistive tool which can provide support and assistance for individuals with upper limb differences who decide they need extra support.



The choice to use a prosthetic or alternative tools for sports ultimately depends on the individual's comfort, needs, and preferences. The goal is to empower everyone!

 

Choosing the right prosthetic arm for playing sports


To begin your prosthetic journey, you can consult with a prosthetist or clinician. They can assess your specific needs and recommend a prosthetic arm suitable for your chosen sport. There are different types of prosthetic arms available, including passive prosthetics, body-powered and myoelectric prostheses.


Alternatively, you can connect with some prosthetic providers directly and speak with the team to understand what they offer and what's suitable for you.


There will be a few things to consider when deciding which prosthetic arm or tools will be most suitable for you. If you’re looking for a prosthetic for swimming, you would have to consider a waterproof prosthetic arm to avoid damage to the device. If you’re into outdoor sports, one thing to consider is how durable the prosthetic is.

 

What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with sports?


There's a huge range of different assistive tools and prosthetics available to help with a variety of different sports and activities!


Swimming


Some swimmers who have a limb difference choose to use specialised swimming paddles or attachments that can be added to their prosthetic arm. These attachments are designed to assist propelling through the water. They’re available in various shapes and sizes to suit individual preferences.


Some prosthetic arms come with hydrophobic coatings that repel water. These coatings help prevent water absorption and maintain the prosthetic's performance while swimming.


Prosthetic arm for riding a bike

Cycling


For cyclists who choose to use cycling-specific prosthetic attachments, there are tool attachments available which are designed to provide a secure grip on the handlebars and improve control. They can be made from materials like rubber or silicone to enhance grip and comfort. They simply hook onto the handlebars on the bike.



Koalaa has a tool named the “Sarah ALX” which is designed for gripping the handle bars on pedal bikes, scooters and buggies. With a spring loaded ‘wrist’ the Sarah tool enables secure and comfortable steering, as well as employing a quick-release hook and loop grip surface.


Tennis

Prosthetic arm for tennis


Specialised grips can be added to a prosthetic arm to hold a tennis racket securely. These grips are designed to provide a comfortable and stable grip while allowing for easy racquet changes during a match.


Prosthetists can also customise prosthetic arms for tennis players. This might involve adapting the wrist joint to improve racket control or creating a specialised attachment for holding the racket more securely.



Koalaa has a tool named “Joanie”. The Joanie is a soft, curved tool designed to scoop up a tennis ball with ease and to launch it into the sky. The Joanie can be attached to our prosthetic arm or can also be worn directly onto the limb with the velcro straps which provide a secure fit!


Golf


Some individuals who play golf with a prosthetic arm opt for golf-specific attachments. These attachments are designed to provide a secure grip on the golf club while allowing for proper hand positioning and control.


Prosthetists can customise prosthetic arms for golfers. This may involve adapting the wrist joint to enhance club control, ensuring a secure grip, and optimising the overall fit for comfort and performance.


Koalaa has a tool named “Kitty ALX” which is a tool with a ball joint and lock. The Kitty has a hook and loop strap that allows it to hold a huge variety of objects from pens, paint brushes to drumsticks and golf clubs!


Yoga


Some individuals who decide they need adaptations for yoga may work with prosthetists or occupational therapists to create custom adaptations for their prosthetic arms to facilitate yoga practice. These adaptations may include modifications to the prosthetic or attachments to help with grip and balance.


Koalaa has a tool named “Nicole Pro ALX” which is designed for doing a range of activities that require bearing weight on your upper limbs, such as push ups, planks and yoga poses!

The large surface area helps enhance balance and its curved base supports effortless flow - the longer front section and curved rear enables a rocking motion whilst maintaining contact with the ground!


Surfing


Some prosthetic arm designs are specifically built to be waterproof. These arms are designed to withstand exposure to water, making them suitable for activities like surfing. They may have sealed components and materials that are resistant to corrosion. These prosthetics are often streamlined and lightweight to minimise drag in the water.


Koalaa has a tool named “Nicole ALX” which is specifically designed for doing a range of tasks that require bearing weight on your upper limbs, such as surfing! Our prosthetic arms are also designed to get wet without damage meaning they can go into the water.



On top of all of the above, there are many more possibilities! Consult with your prosthetic provider or clinician if there's a specific activity you want to get involved in.

 

What’s a myoelectric prosthetic arm and can I play sports with one?


Bionic arm for yoga

With myoelectric prosthetics, signals from your muscles will prompt the prosthetic hand to move. Practice is key to achieving precision and refining your muscle movements.


Things to be mindful of when considering using a myoelectric prosthetic arm when playing sports is the prosthetic's battery life, extended sports sessions might consume energy so always carry a spare battery or charger if needed!


Always consult your prosthetic provider on whether your prosthetic is suitable for certain activities!

 

Why might someone think doing sports with a prosthetic arm could be difficult?


As a society, some people can sometimes perceive playing sports with a prosthetic arm as difficult due to a combination of historical norms, limited exposure to prosthetic technology, and assumptions about physical limitations!


In the past, prosthetics may have been rudimentary and lacked the functionality required for different sports such as tennis or cycling. This has led to the idea that prosthetic users might struggle with sports whilst wearing their prosthetic.


The lack of awareness and representation of prosthetics has also contributed to misconceptions. Limited visibility of individuals successfully using prosthetics for activities like kayaking or gymnastics has reinforced the idea that such tasks can be challenging.


It's important to challenge these perceptions and embrace a more inclusive perspective. While there may be a learning curve and adjustments involved, individuals who chose to use prosthetic arms can develop remarkable skills.


The narrative is shifting towards empowerment and expanded possibilities, highlighting that writing with a prosthetic arm is not inherently difficult but a skill that can be mastered with determination and the right tools!

 

Koalaa’s approach to playing sports with a prosthetic arm


At Koalaa, our user-centric approach to design ensures that individuals have the tools available if required to assist with various activities, including sports! Our prosthetics feature a soft, lightweight fabric sleeve that can be paired with different tool attachments, catering to specific tasks.


We have a bunch of tools which our community has used for lots of different sport activities. By designing tool attachments that assist the wearer in multiple sporting activities, we aim to encourage inclusivity and ensure that no one feels limited by the lack of resources out there available to assist them!



 

User Stories - Lillie

Prosthetic arm for hockey

Lillie from Warrington was one of the first children in the UK to receive a Koalaa prosthetic and it proved to be an instant hit on the hockey field!


Lillie was born with a below elbow limb difference meaning that her right hand did not develop before birth.


Becki Hutchinson, Lillie’s mum, commented: “Being able to skip has been a big thing for Lillie and she amazed us with how well she could do it! She’s also been using her Koalaa to hold the paper still when she’s been painting and crafting.


“But the biggest thing has been playing hockey. Before getting her Koalaa, Lillie found it hard to control a hockey stick and she was getting really frustrated. She now has no problems and proudly takes her Koalaa into school with her every week, especially since she got a special Roblox-inspired cover.”


 

Interested in our prosthetic arm tool attachments for sports?


Depending on what sport you’re into, check the links below to find out more about our tool attachments and how they could assist you!





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