Fair play at the Paralympics

Fair play at the Paralympics

March 11, 2014
One CFI-funded researcher is in Sochi collecting data to gauge the severity of spinal cord injuries with the hope of levelling the playing field for Paralympians

By Michael Bhardwaj

Andrei Krassioukov discovered his life mission while he was a young doctor serving in the hospitals of Estonia in the 1980s. Back then, these clinics were crowded with soldiers injured in the Soviet-led war in Afghanistan. Young men would arrive from the front lines, helpless and in desperate need of medical attention, says Krassioukov, and it was when he tended soldiers who suffered spinal injuries that his purpose became clear. “They were in bed with no access to a wheelchair,” says Krassioukov. “That was the initial trigger for me. That’s why I wanted to study spinal cord injury.”

Today, Krassioukov is a clinical researcher at ICORD, a Vancouver-based facility associated with UBC that is dedicated to studying damage to the spine. He examines the relationship between the spinal column and cardiovascular health and is particularly interested in the interplay between these systems in Paralympians. Spinal cord injuries affect not only mobility, but also internal systems and conditions such as low blood pressure are common among people with this type of disability. In the highly competitive world of the Paralympics, athletes sometimes take extreme — and illicit — measures to spike their blood pressure just before an event.

Krassioukov has returned to his homeland Russia, not far from the Estonian hospitals where his life’s work began, for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi. As he has done at past Paralympic Games, Krassioukov will use CFI-funded equipment to test several Paralympians with spinal cord injuries. The data he collects will help inform the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) about how the severity of a spinal cord injury affects the cardiovascular system, which in-turn will give the IPC the evidence they need to address the issue of blood-pressure boosting.

Read our story about Krassioukov’s research during the 2012 Paralympic Games in London here. Click on the Skype video below to tour Krassioukov’s clinic at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi. (This video is available in English only.)

Photo courtesy of Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee