Physio students support ‘superheroes’ with disabilities at Winter Wonderwheels

A senior physiotherapy lecturer and more than 30 students volunteered as ‘superhero sidekicks’ at the UK’s first Winter Wonderwheels sporting event.


Physio student volunteers with (front row, from second from left) senior physio lecturer Danielle Ramsey, Superhero Series founder and Paralympian Sophia Warner and Paralympian and event team captain David Henson

Danielle Ramsey and a group of her students from the University of Hertfordshire took part in the event around Lake Donery near Windsor in December.

The competition featured 1km, 5km and 10km challenges and was open to ‘everyday superheroes’ - people with disabilities and their families - who could cycle, walk, run, push or be pushed around the course.

It was the second event organised by the Superhero Series, an organisation that aims to create fun sporting events for people with disabilities, which have no cut-off times or equipment restrictions.

Ms Ramsey told Frontline: ‘Following my experience of volunteering at the first Superhero Series event last August, I invited my undergraduate students to volunteer as sidekicks so they could experience inclusion and participation in practice.

‘In my clinical practice as a paediatric physiotherapist, I’ve often seen the challenges that families face when trying to integrate their physio programmes into daily life, and how often physiotherapy could be seen as a chore no matter how interesting I try to make the activities. So, I’ve always seen community participation as a key aspect of what we do.

‘As physiotherapists, we should be embodying the superhero spirit, to not see limits and encourage inclusion and participation at every opportunity.

‘The Superhero Series helps to demonstrate that physiotherapists should never underestimate the abilities of the people they are working with, as it's our job to help people work towards superhuman abilities – be that helping someone independently roll over in bed at night to enable a good night’s sleep, or helping someone achieve their Paralympic dreams.'

She added that the Superhero Series could be a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to motivate patients to work towards goals, and the events had the potential to provide physical and psychosocial benefits, for both disabled participants and their families.

Student perspectives

Fred Paine, a second-year physio student, was one of the sidekick volunteers. He said: ‘I found the Winter Wonderwheels event extremely inspiring. I was positioned on a bridge, aiding any participants who needed help tackling the hill and providing support and motivation to those taking part.

‘The temptation as a student is to consider the limitations faced by patients and not focus on the ability of these people. It was enlightening to see the drive of the participants and it made me realise the goals which can be achieved can be far greater than I’d imagined.’

Final year physio student Skye-Lucia Moore, said: ‘It was beneficial for me to see such a wide range of disabilities within a range of age groups. I was also able to see the types of equipment and prostheses that are available, enhancing my knowledge.

‘It was great to consolidate my learning from university through seeing individuals with conditions that I have only learned about in theory so far.’

And Sean Adnett, another final year physio student, said: ‘It was such a great opportunity to get involved and really see the benefits that physiotherapy can have on people. Seeing the joy on people’s faces when they collected their medals was amazing and so rewarding’.

CSP student rep Jasmine Ruscoe said: ‘As a first year physiotherapy student it gave me the opportunity to build on my confidence speaking to a large number of people of all ages and to help out at a fantastic event.

‘It also gave me the chance to see how some of the incredible prosthetics and other mobility aids worked, such as running blades. I cannot encourage everyone enough to apply for the Superhero Tri in August - you won’t regret it!”

The organisers are looking for 250 volunteers for their next event, the Superhero Triathlon.

Author: Robert Millett

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