Wheelchair rugby offers ‘freedom’ to athletes with disabilities who just want to compete

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This weekend, adult Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation hosted the 14th annual Southern Slam Wheelchair Rugby Tournament at the University of North Florida.

The ASR program is designed for athletes of all ages with disabilities and illnesses.

Some said the program has saved their life.

Don Bergman plays for the local team the Brooks Bandits and set the record straight that this sport is not for the faint of heart.

“Oh, anytime you see people in a wheelchair you think oh that poor person I hope they don’t get hurt. We take a lot of punishment, and we bounce right back,” said Don Bergman.

Bouncing back is how Bergman got through one of the most challenging moments of his life.

He became a quadriplegic after breaking his neck during a swimming accident at 16.

His main strength is in his shoulders and triceps but has limited to no mobility in the rest of his body.

Over the last 15 years he garnered those strengths into assets in wheelchair rugby.

“So many people get injured, and they just stay home. They have no access to friends or family they get locked in at home and then go on a downward spiral. This program offers a freedom to the spirit, the mind, the body the soul,” Bergman said.

Terrel King joined the Bandits a few years after he was shot in the spine in 2008.

He enjoys the competition but to him, it’s about learning how to make your circumstances work in your favor.

“Once you’re out here you see that it is not a disability but an ability to be around everybody else and grow,” said King.

To learn more about the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation program visit their website.

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.