The Energy of Team Sports

Resident Fellow Council, AAP
3 min readApr 15, 2021

Louis Nikolis, MS3

Photo by Andrew McMurtrie from Pexels

I could feel the energy. It was the same energy I felt when my mom signed me up for a basketball team when I was 7 years old. It was the same energy I felt as a senior in high school when I walked onto the court with my teammates. It was the same energy that I still feel when the ball rolls off my fingertips and falls through the net. Basketball just has a certain energy, and as I walked into the gym at the Second City Showdown Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, I felt it.

The “energy” of team sports has always provided me with a constant source of camaraderie, stress relief, and positivity. While my experiences are simply anecdotal, the benefits of participation in team sports have been well-established through research. Studies have shown that participation in team sports is associated with reduced risks of anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness.1 Moreoever team sports are associated with feelings of social acceptance and decreased body dissatisfaction.2 Overall, participation in team sports is associated with improved quality of life.3 Although research may not discuss the “energy” of team sports, the data certainly suggests that they have influential power.

As individuals with disabilities suffer proportionately higher levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation, adaptive team sports offer a unique opportunity to combat that. Research has shown that individuals who participate in adaptive sports have lower rates of anxiety and depression.4 Additionally, these individuals tend to have a higher quality of life satisfaction.5 In addition to the benefits on mental health, participation in adaptive team sports can induce beneficial changes on physical health. One study in particular showed that competitive wheelchair basketball participants showed better physiological well-being and social skills than non-partipants.6 Further, adaptive athletes have been shown to have a higher level of functioning with regards to activities of daily living.7 These individuals also tend to have improved cardiovascular endurance and strength.8 These findings speak to the energy of adaptive team sports.

As we often become encompassed by the specific details of our patients’ medical management, it is important to take a step back and evaluate the patient as a whole. What recommendations could improve our patient’s quality of life? Is there something that could influence several components of one’s health? Although we may not be able to write a prescription for “participation in team sports” and participation may not be possible for all patients, we can certainly encourage it in the proper circumstances. Therefore, it is our responsibility to learn about the resources for team sports available in our community. In doing so, we have the opportunity to inspire a sense of “energy.”


1. Pluhar E, McCracken C, Griffith KL, Christino MA, Sugimoto D, Meehan WP. Team Sport Athletes May Be Less Likely To Suffer Anxiety or Depression than Individual Sport Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(3):490–496.

2. Boone EM, Leadbeater BJ. Game On: Diminishing Risks for Depressive Symptoms in Early Adolescence Through Positive Involvement in Team Sports. J Res Adolesc. 2006;16(1):79–90. doi:10.1111/j.1532–7795.2006.00122.x

3. Moeijes J, van Busschbach JT, Bosscher RJ, Twisk JWR. Sports participation and health-related quality of life: a longitudinal observational study in children. Qual Life Res. 2019;28(9):2453–2469. doi:10.1007/s11136–019–02219–4

4. Gioia MC, Cerasa A, Di Lucente L, Brunelli S, Castellano V, Traballesi M. Psychological impact of sports activity in spinal cord injury patients. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2006;16(6):412–416. doi:10.1111/j.1600–0838.2005.00518.x

5. Yazicioglu K, Yavuz F, Goktepe AS, Tan AK. Influence of adapted sports on quality of life and life satisfaction in sport participants and non-sport participants with physical disabilities. Disabil Health J. 2012;5(4):249–253. doi:10.1016/j.dhjo.2012.05.003

6. Fiorilli G, Iuliano E, Aquino G, et al. Mental health and social participation skills of wheelchair basketball players: a controlled study. Res Dev Disabil. 2013;34(11):3679–3685. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2013.08.023

7. Furmaniuk L, Cywińska-Wasilewska G, Kaczmarek D. Influence of long-term wheelchair rugby training on the functional abilities in persons with tetraplegia over a two-year post-spinal cord injury. J Rehabil Med. 2010;42(7):688–690. doi:10.2340/16501977–0580

8. Schmid A, Huonker M, Stober P, et al. Physical performance and cardiovascular and metabolic adaptation of elite female wheelchair basketball players in wheelchair ergometry and in competition. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1998;77(6):527–533. doi:10.1097/00002060–199811000–00015



Resident Fellow Council, AAP

Resident and Fellow Council of the Association of Academic Physiatry (@AssocAcademicPhysiatry)