Professor Abrams: Enabling Youths with Disabilities to Play Sports

Professor Doug Abrams writes a regular column on, one of the nation’s leading sports blogs. The columns concern safety, legal, and ethical issues in youth sports.

Professor Abrams’ latest column urges teams and leagues to increase playing opportunities for children with disabilities.

“Sports done right enables children with disabilities to learn, enjoy healthy lifestyles, hone their social skills, and develop self-esteem,” he says. “As they fulfill their needs and desires, these children teach teammates and opponents valuable lessons about surmounting barriers through sheer perseverance and determination. . . . In public schools and youth leagues, the impulse to include, rather than exclude, children marks youth sports at its best. Inclusion is good for young athletes with disabilities, good for their teammates and opponents, and good for America.”

Professor Abrams explains that, “To the maximum extent possible, teams and leagues should encourage children with physical challenges to participate if their parents approve, their abilities permit, and participation does not change the character of the game or compromise safety. Worthwhile programs, such as Little League’s Challenger Division or USA Hockey’s Sled Hockey, serve children whose conditions make integrated play inadvisable or impossible. . . . One way or another, . . . well-crafted encouragement, driven by empathy and understanding, can open doors.”