Injured Veterans Seek Freedom and Thrills on the Water

Former Staff Sgt. Patrick Crockett, Sr. took up water skiing after a neck injury disabled him.

Putting injured veterans back into sports they played prior to their injury or getting them to try new sports is Jamie Kaplan’s goal. He is a recreational therapist at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital and coordinates the adaptive sports programs.

“You’re looking at a group of ultra-competitive men and women,” Kaplan said. “They got into the military because they like being outdoors, they like being active, they like doing sports and we want to show them that post-injury they can continue to do those things.”

Volunteers from UCanSki2 attach a seat frame to a water ski for the next veteran ready to take to the water. The volunteer group, based out of Winter Haven, co-sponsors close to a dozen adaptive water ski events a year.

More than three dozen veterans signed up to ski Sunday at the Adaptive Water Ski Expo on Seminole Lake in Pinellas County.

Kaplan said water sports are an excellent way to get injured veterans reintegrated into sports.

“Everyone is equal on the water,” Kaplan said adding that adaptive equipment allows even quadriplegics mobility to water ski.

Former Army staff sergeant Patrick Crockett, Sr. had never gone water skiing until after being injured. It seems counter-intuitive that he would try a sport like that after an injury, but he said he challenged himself because he was “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”

Mark, a veteran injured in a helicopter accident, is excited after water skiing his first time. He was back on the water for a second trip within 15 minutes.

“The biggest fear was dealing with the pain,” Crockett said adding that he’s had several disks replaced in his neck. “I’ve always been tentative about doing any activities.”

But on Sunday, Crockett was back to do more skiing because despite the pain, it gives him a thrill. He hopes to inspire other veterans to come out and experience the same thrill.

The James A. Haley VA Hospital will host the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in 2013. Adaptive water skiing will be one of the demonstration events for the first time in the history of the games. In all, the Wheelchair Games will include 18 different events and attract more than 1,000 athletes from throughout the United States.

U Can Ski 2 volunteers wait in the water with an injured veteran as a speedboat takes off pulling another veteran up for a trip around Lake Seminole in Pinellas County, Florida.

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One Response

  1. It is my opinion that veterans will have benefic effects by sport and/or hobbies they exerct prior to war’s wounds, as happen with pet therapy. It is a manner to remembe their capacities, their possibilities and see they may continue to be able on activities they posed on. It is the manner to constate the wound is not a handicap and they have not lost, losing an art or part of it, possibilities of live. I am happy for them and wish all the best possible claudio alpaca

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