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SLU Assistant Professor Sarah Adam: A 2024 Paralympic Games Hopeful

by Bridjes O'Neil
Media Inquiries

Bridjes O'Neil
Communications Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.

ST. LOUIS — The Paralympic Games are more than just a sporting event – they offer a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on sport and disability, inspire individuals, bring about social change, and promote inclusive professional and sports opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Paralympic hopeful Sarah Adam, OTD, assistant professor of occupational science and occupational therapy at Saint Louis University (SLU), is projected to become the first woman to compete for a USA Wheelchair Rugby team at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. 

A group photo of wheelchair rugby players.

Sarah Adam, OTD, (second from left in the back row), with members of the 2022 USA Wheelchair Rugby Training Squad. Photo by Lakeshore Foundation. 

“This is a huge opportunity to be a part of the disability sport movement that continues to grow in the US and around the world,” Adams said. “I know that my background in OT, role as a professor at SLU, and research in adaptive sports and exercise provides me with a unique voice to use in these platforms.”

Adams studies enhancing independence and participation of individuals with disabilities through community-based exercise and adaptive sports. She has collaborated with the adaptive health and wellness center to collect and analyze data to show the benefits of adaptive sport and exercise for adults with disability. 

Adam was named to the 2022 USA Wheelchair Rugby Training Squad and is part of an elite team that has been competing to earn a spot at the Paris 2024 Games set to take place over 12 days from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, bringing together 4,400 of the world’s most outstanding Paralympic athletes.

An estimated 1.3 billion people, or about 16% of the global population, live with some form of disability. People with disabilities face discrimination in all walks of life: education, health care, labor, and community life, which includes access to participation in sport. Though Adams is seeing more adaptive sports being represented in the mainstream media and is defining her place in the movement. 

Adams hopes that a documentary about her team’s journey to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris next summer will help bring more attention to Wheelchair Rugby and the benefits of adaptive sports in general. 

Participation in sport is proven to be incredibly beneficial both physically and mentally; however, this study demonstrated that there is a lack of widespread awareness among many people with disabilities about what adaptive sport is and how they can participate in it. While often used interchangeably with inclusive sport, adaptive sport allows modifications to make the game more accessible, compared with the similar inclusive sport, which permits athletes with disabilities to compete with non-disabled athletes.

As a graduate student, Adam had a unique introduction to the sport as an able-bodied volunteer at the Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA) in 2013. Adam was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year later after noticing difficulty walking, gripping items, numbness in her hands, and bouts of fatigue. She began playing wheelchair rugby recreationally in 2017 and competitively in 2019.

“In my mind, everyone can connect to sports in some way and that makes adaptive sport a great tool for breaking down some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about people with disabilities,” she said.