Spinal cord injury: from rehabilitation to community to sports

Professor Vicky Tolfrey – Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

For the past 15 years, the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport (PHC) has led significant multi-disciplinary research in the field of disability, including spinal cord injury (SCI) – supporting people across the spectrum of rehabilitation, community and sports.

The Centre, headed by Professor Vicky Tolfrey, has forged vital research collaborations with internationally respected colleagues worldwide, encouraging them to extend their research into Para Sport. The work spans three key areas.

The PHC’s collaboration with Wakayama Medical University dates back to 2013. The partnership has resulted in five published articles, two joint international conferences, and researcher exchanges between Japan and the UK.

Physical Activity
Work with leading European and North American partners has led to the development of international exercise guidelines for adults with SCI. The guidelines – already translated into seven languages with more underway – are available to download from a dedicated website. Since its launch in December 2018, there have been 3,968 visits to the site. A related paper received Spinal Cord’s Readers’ Choice Award 2018 and was named among their Best Papers of the Year.

Paralympic Sport
The PHC has led high-impact research into the performance of elite athletes, and contributed to ParalympicsGB exceeding their performance goals at the Rio 2016 Olympics. This success has led to further international collaborations within the Paralympic Movement, including with colleagues in Sweden (Paracanoe), Holland (Wheelchair Rugby) and Australia (Wheelchair Tennis).

The Centre’s international partnerships have developed new scientific knowledge, and created a research dissemination network spanning Europe, North America and Asia.


The PHC works with numerous partners worldwide, including

  • University of Canberra, Australia
  • University of Queensland, Australia
  • University of Alberta, Canada
  • University of British Columbia, Canada
  • McMaster University, Canada
  • University of Regina, Canada
  • University of Tokyo, Japan
  • Wakayama Medical University, Japan
  • University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands
  • Lund University, Sweden
  • Swedish School of Health Sciences, Sweden
  • Swiss Paraplegic Research Centre, Switzerland
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  • Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital / Harvard Medical School, USA
  • International Paralympic Committee
  • International Tennis Federation
  • International Triathlon Union Medical Committee
  • International Wheelchair Basketball Federation
  • International Wheelchair Rugby Federation
  • Korean Paralympic Association
  • Lakeshore Foundation at Birmingham, USA