Latest news from Loughborough University

8 Dec 2015

New book offers a “Very Alternative” way of dealing with sudden paralysis

Loughborough University has helped to launch a new book that uses humour and graphic design to communicate vital information to people dealing with sudden paralysis.

The Very Alternative Guide To Spinal Cord Injury’s 96 pages are packed with off-the-wall illustrations, photography and first-hand stories from people that have been through the life-changing experience.

Dr Anthony Papathomas, lecturer in sport and exercise psychology in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, carried out the research within the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport at Loughborough University. Co-author Joe Robinson added his own experiences of living with a spinal cord injury and complemented the publication with inventive illustrations and photographs.

The Very Alternative Guide To Spinal Cord Injury moves away from traditional, medical-based support materials by covering a wide range of common barriers, including social interactions, transport and participation in sports.

More serious, hard-hitting topics, such as stigma and depression, are also approached to provide a guide for injured patients, as well as their family and friends. 

“Suffering a spinal cord injury is a sudden and traumatic event that takes considerable adapting to,” said Dr Papathomas. “Resources that can support the adaptation in the early stages are very important.

The Very Alternative Guide to Spinal Cord Injury is one of the first books to deliver this information in an evidence-based way and translates the research carried out at Loughborough University into a usable product that's going to have an impact on people's lives worldwide.”

He added: “By incorporating humour into a book about sudden paralysis, there's an element of controversy to that. However, the people that deem it to be controversial are usually not people with a spinal injury.

“Our book was about providing something for spinal injured people first and foremost. Their life stories from the research conducted always had a central theme of humour and fun about those tales. 

“The book is about coming to terms with sudden paralysis, adapting to a new life living with a disability and going on to live a full life. There are some real lows along the way and we wanted to do justice to those lows and for the book to represent an authentic experience in an interesting and humorous way.”

The Very Alternative Guide to Spinal Cord Injury has been well received by healthcare professionals. Many are set to use the publication as a way of delivering support to new patients and NHS spinal injury units have already purchased the book.

Helen Smith, consultant clinical psychologist at London Spinal Cord Injury Centre, said: “After a spinal cord injury or illness, we know that humour can help, information can help, and support can help. This book brilliantly combines all these elements.”

The Very Alternative Guide to Spinal Cord Injury was funded by the Loughborough University enterprise project. The book can be ordered online for £16.99 by visiting


Notes for editors

Article reference number: 15/225

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. It was 2nd in the 2015 THE Student Experience Survey and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

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