Tag Archives: Spina bifida

In His Element

Let me preface this blog entry by saying this: It is practically impossible to watch any child with a disability participate in physically challenged sports without being inspired. The sheer fact that they choose to play at all means they have a leg up on determination and perseverance, probably more than any of the world’s able-bodied athletes.

Of course, it’s not for everyone: Some kids play one round of wheelchair basketball, find a giant blister on their palm, and call it quits. And that’s fine—like I said, it’s not for everyone. But every once in a while we get a kid (or young adult) so determined and so willing to push his limits that they can’t help but stand out in our minds. As director of the Bennett Institute for Physically Challenged Sports at Kennedy Krieger, I’m fortunate to have met many such players. Like Jorge Medrano.

Jorge was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that involves incomplete formation of the spinal cord. As a result, he typically walks with braces. Don’t let them fool you though: This young man has skills.

Of course, when you think of so-called natural athletes, you probably imagine the Kobe Bryants and Derek Jeters of the world, not a kid who needs special equipment to walk. But perhaps it’s his very ability to rise above his disability and score that makes Jorge the quintessential natural athlete that he is. In fact—in addition to playing wheelchair basketball and sled hockey, Jorge has been an integral member of our softball team, so much so that he made the national all-star team, where he proved an outstanding first baseman. It seems that whether he’s catching a ball or shooting it, he’s in his element with a ball in his hands. Continue reading

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