Product Spotlight! – SmartKnit Seamless AFO, KAFO and SMO Socks

SmartKnit Seamless AFO, KAFO, and SMO Socks from Knit-Rite are truly a difference maker for anyone who wears an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO); knee-ankle-foot orthosis (KAFO); or supra-malleolar orthosis (SMO).

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AFOs, KAFOs and SMOs are plastic splints or braces made to keep feet and legs in the correct position for standing and walking.  They can be worn for a number of reasons including realigning the joints; providing support to weakened joints or muscles; stopping or limiting abnormal motion; helping to control abnormal muscle tone; and providing protection, any of which can affect people who have one of these conditions: cerebral palsy; multiple sclerosis; polio; Charcot disease; ALS; dropfoot; adult-acquired flatfoot secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD).  Most orthotists, the practitioner who fits patients with their braces, recommend that their patients wear a good AFO sock under their braces to protect their skin.  AFO socks must be long enough to cover all the areas of skin which will come into contact with the AFO brace.  They must be well fitting.  And they must be pulled up firmly to eliminate any creases or other points of irritation.  SmartKnit Seamless AFO, KAFO, and SMO Socks are made especially for adults and children that wear these braces.

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The most important criterion to those that wear braces is their seamlessness because sock seams can be a major point of irritation.  Our socks are made the same way that a caterpillar spins its cocoon – starting at the toe and circling to the top.  This process is critical because it is what makes our socks seamless – there is nothing to stitch together.

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Another important aspect of our AFO socks is their form-fitting design.  Our socks are made with stretchy Core-Spun and Lycra® yarns that provide that much-needed form-fitting design to hug the feet and legs.  Fitting snugly against the skin results in a wrinkle-free sock eliminating additional points of irritation.

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Another point of comfort is the moisture-wicking properties contained in our AFO socks.  In addition to the Core-Spun yarns, our AFO socks contain Polyester, or X-STATIC® — The Silver Fiber® with Lycra® spandex for superior moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties.  Moisture-wicking fibers help to control odors in the sock, as well as keeping feet dry by wicking moisture away from the skin.

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Finally, a non-binding Halo Top allows for a comfortable fit keeping the socks from slipping down the leg.  Most socks have elastic bands at the tops of the sock that can pinch, bind or be a source of irritation.  Our socks do not have a heel, which also allows a better fit.

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SmartKnit Seamless AFOs are available in an infant size, three child sizes and three adult sizes.  Color options include white, black, grey, charcoal, pink, purple and navy.*  KAFOs are available in an infant, size, three child sizes and two adult sizes.  Color options include white, black, grey, pink, purple and navy.*  SMO socks are available in five different sizes and in white, black, charcoal, pink, purple and navy.

SmartKnit Seamless AFOs, KAFOs and SMOs can be purchased on Amazon or on www.knitritedirect.com!  Search for SmartKnit Seamless AFO Socks or click here!

* Not all size options are available in every color.

Limb Loss Awareness Month!

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Photo Courtesy of peglegpirate.org

 

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month – my favorite month of the year! Maybe it’s because the temperatures are warmer, and we are all ready for sun and flowers to bloom! Though, it doesn’t seem like spring these days here in Kansas City! Brrr! Or maybe it’s because we get to talk about my favorite topic – amputees! This special month is designated for those who have been impacted by limb loss and limb difference. It is about celebrating diversity, spotlighting accomplishments and educating the general community about issues impacting our lives.

 

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Photo Courtesy of amputee-coalition.org

 

According to the Amputee Coalition website, there are more than 500 amputations every single day in this country. With nearly two million people living with limb loss in the United States alone, our amputee community is full of experiences and diversity. The cool thing is that everybody has their own story, and April is our time to celebrate that which is far too often shunned – or at least overlooked.

Using the power of social media, amputees across the country and around the world are sharing their limb loss stories all month long. Although every journey is different, our strength lies with our numbers and our stories. During this incredible Limb Loss Awareness Month, the community is united to empower and to educate those who are struggling with limb loss, as well as those who may be impacted in the future or are touched by limb loss from loved ones or friends.

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Photo Courtesy of Amputee Support Group by Brett Weber

 

Here’s my story! I didn’t lose my legs in an accident or from an infection or other medical issue. I lost my legs before I was even born, from the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant accident. Shocking, huh? Luckily, I didn’t feel the pain of losing my limbs, which is good, because pain after limb loss is not fun! So I’ve heard.

Being a congenital amputee can be frustrating, but also entertaining. I’ve never experienced having 10 toes or any toes. LOL! If I break my prosthesis, I can’t be as active and can end up in a wheelchair, which takes away my independence. I always have to have two sets of prosthetic legs, one set for running and one set for walking. (No, I am not an animal, but I do have four legs, ha-ha!) For instance, if I am walking down the street, I can’t just start running. (Hopefully there are no bad guys behind me or coyotes.) When I am traveling out of town for one of my races, I have to carry a pair of legs with me. Let me tell you, those heavy babies are not easy to carry! Early mornings aren’t fun either, because my silicones are always so cold, especially in the winter. Putting a cold silicone on skin is really unpleasant and freezing. Also, we always have to be cautious of blisters and any irritations. Finally, let’s not forget the public eye. There’s always someone watching me or my legs, whether I want them to or not.

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But the advantages overpower disadvantages. I never have cold feet, because I don’t have any feet. You can step on my feet and I won’t feel a thing! I get to say amputee jokes and laugh about it. If one of my prosthetic sets breaks, the other set always comes to my rescue. I see a completely different perspective on life than most people! My favorite advantage is that I get to show to those who struggle that it is okay to be different, you just really have to want it. We are all different – some are just more than others!

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Photo Courtesy of douglasbaderfoundation.com

 

I hope you all join me in sharing your story and why this month is special to you. Who knows, maybe your story will be the one that offers some hope to a new amputee, possibly encouraging them to push forward despite the setbacks!

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TIR Experience with Team Catapult

This blog is long but it is worth it…!

Going into this trip I didn’t really know what to expect! I’ve done many races and before I ran this one, I assumed I’d be doing the same thing! But it was more than just a race, time and a finish medal!

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I was invited to do a 180 mile Texas Independence Relay as part of Team Catapult, an amazing group that brings runners with disabilities together, such as amputees, visually impaired, deaf, and others.  Their website states that they are “turning disabilities into capabilities every day,” and this is so true! This year, Team Catapult had two teams made up of visually impaired athletes and athletes with prosthetic legs (a total of only 8 “normal” legs, LOL). Some of these runners are Paralympians and Paralympian hopefuls who can run as fast as the wind!!”  It was an honor to be part of this awesome crew.

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The Texas Independence Relay is an annual distance-running competition where teams of up to 12 (or less) members race approximately 200 miles from Gonzales to downtown Houston.

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If it sounds ridiculous, it is. And, every year it attracts ridiculous humans, most of whom love fast splits, post-run beer, and Texas. I don’t think I have ever seen so many Texas flags!

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To get from point A to point B, most teams rent (and decorate) two vans and journey past windmills and wildflowers through the Texas hill country on the nonstop, two-day excursion. There’s little sleep. Few showers. No whining. Just an epic adventure of life-affirming escape for regular joes and elite athletes, alike.

Following the “prologue” mile, a team’s first runner, which was me this year, keeps going onto the first leg, and the team catches up via a short van ride to the first exchange point. My first run was over 4 miles. I remember being anxious, but so excited to do something that I have never done – a relay and it was done with amputee friends! Training all winter in Kansas City weather didn’t prepare me for the 70 degree temperature lows with high humidity in spring!

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Photo Courtesy of Cat Nguen

 

Most runs are about 4 to 7 miles in length, and team captains determine runners’ rotation, depending on factors like route difficulty, length, and time of day. Rather than a baton, we were tagged in with the snap of a reflective slap-bracelet, an interesting change of pace. Straight away, we were facing (in my opinion) harsh conditions – everything from scorching spring sun and 80-plus degree temperatures to gravel and dirt roads, seemingly endless Port-o-potty lines, and even sometimes coyotes or wild dogs. Yikes!

While most teams “compete to complete,” rather than win, many enjoy “tagging” other vans at exchange points to signify they “wuz there.”

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Another part of the friendly competition includes counting “kills,” or runners from other teams passed along the route, by marking them on van windows. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to “kill” anyone – more like they were “killing” me with their incredible speed!

Nothing about TIR is typical, even for experienced marathon runners or trail runners who are used to rockier, dirtier, technical terrain. While each TIR run is relatively short, few human bodies recover well while cramped in vans with hours-long waits between runs.

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This is especially relevant when you wear 1 or 2 prosthetic legs! We took our recovery time very seriously! I took off my prostheses after every run (I had total of four runs) to make sure that I was fully recovered and ready to do another run! Sleep was minimal due to constant uncomfortable van rides on gravel and the smell of stinky silicones from tired runners!

Spending 24-plus uninterrupted hours with many sweating friends means you almost necessarily come back a different, stronger, nicer, weirder person. I think that’s the point!

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Safety is paramount, and we had to determine how to approach such challenging conditions. For us, that meant driving the van up a mile or two to provide a makeshift aid station mid-run for our current runner. We had to be self-sufficient and able to provide our runners with extra water or cool towels, if needed.

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Another challenge was making sure runners had accurate directions and stayed on course, much of which is uncovered, with little shade.

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Photo Courtesy of Scott Flathouse Phography

 

Heat exhaustion is a real concern during the earliest runs and “bonk brain” – a runner’s proclivity toward poor choices as fatigue sets in – becomes the norm. Huge shout out to other teams’ vans for the honks and love. Their support kept us going during our runs! Speaking of support, one of my runs happened to be at 1:30am!

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The temperature was wonderful, high 60s! However, the visibility and directions weren’t too clear, and the sound of wild dogs didn’t help, so I ended up getting a little lost. Fortunately, my team got ahead of me and guided me to my finish destination! No wild dogs got hurt by my blades! LOL!

Food became scarce as small towns shut down early – many only have one store anyway. We had to pack efficiently and prepare to sustain demanding physical schedules with meals that won’t easily spoil.

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I ended up eating a lot of energy gels, almonds, protein bars and a lot of water – hydration is the key!

The finish was the best! We started the mile together and we finished it together! It was humbling and rewarding! We were all exhausted, extremely sore and stinky – but we were also happy to have one goal – finish with joy and no serious injuries!

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This was not my typical race that I get to do every weekend – it was bonding with a group of people who have gone through something incredible and are not willing to give up.

We might not have won the race but according to TIR, we won The Team Spirit Award!

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Photo Courtesy of TIR

 

I am thankful to Team Catapult for allowing me to be part of this incredible journey that I will never forget! Speaking of Thank Yous, it takes a small (or maybe not-so-small) army that generously gives their time, energy, and expertise to make the Texas Independence Relay happen. A huge thank you to everyone that made this race possible and made it safe and fun for all of us!

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5 Things I’d Tell New Amputees – From a Fellow Amputee!

I often get asked this simple question – what things would I tell to new amputees. Since I’ve been an amputee my whole life, I think I can say that I have some knowledge of how to live as an amputee.

Boiled down to five simple things, this is what I’d say:

1) Take a deep breath. It will be okay.

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Photo courtesy of betterlivingthroughdesign.com

 

Take the time to let your body heal, really heal, and take it one day at a time. Don’t pile the fear and expectation for the rest of your life in a big heap on yourself today. Tomorrow will come. Today needs to be about healing. Look around your hospital bed and see the people who will be there as you face tomorrow and the next day. Because they will be there. The people who love you will help you through this thing, as long as you will let them.

2) You might not realize it yet, but there are a lot people rooting for you – maybe some you don’t even know. You know how jazzed up people get when there is an amputee soldier who needs encouragement? That’s your gift, too. Every amputee worldwide and every able bodied person who has a heart, is hoping and praying for you right now. Close your eyes and feel our support. If you are going to let anything weigh you down, let it be the blanket of love and encouragement that your supporters are weaving today.

3) This life with one less limb isn’t so bad.

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Photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

 

Even if you’ve lost two, don’t lose heart. There are many stories in the news about the amazing developments in the prosthetic world. When you’re ready, the life-restoring prosthetics are there.

4) You have a lot of support out there, from people who truly understand, if you want it.

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Photo Courtesy of hauteliving.com

 

I found amazing answers and encouragement from websites like Wiggle Your Toes and Empowering Amputees. The Amputee Coalition of America is a great resource for answers you and your loved ones have. Also, their Facebook page is a community of amputees from around the world who ask each other questions and give honest, heartfelt answers. When you’re struggling, someone there will understand. When you’re confused, someone there will say, “I’ve been there. Here’s what helped.” Don’t forget to reach out, even if it’s just anonymously at first. You may be surprised how many people do understand exactly how you’re feeling.

5) This is your experience, and your experience alone. Just because other amputees climb Mt. Everest, doesn’t mean that it has to be your goal. Just because some amputees run marathons, doesn’t mean you have to. Your life is your own. Your injury is unique. If you need a fitness goal to keep you motivated, talk to your physical therapist and come up with something that fits you. But you don’t have anything to prove to the rest of us. Don’t let that pressure weigh you down. Yes, there are endless activities available to amputees today. Organizations like The Challenged Athletes Foundation can help you get back to any activity you might want to try. But every goal should be about what you want, not about what you believe others think you should do.

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Photo Courtesy of pinterest.com

 

Your main goal should be to get back to life. You know, the part of life that is about making memories with the people you love, and doing the things that make you happy? Whatever it takes to get you there, is perfect. It might mean walking unassisted on a prosthetic leg by Labor Day. Or it might mean getting used to a comfortable pair of crutches, or a wheelchair. But never forget what really matters. You’re alive. You’re surrounded by people who love you. The world is cheering for you. As long as my fellow amputees and I are around, we will be encouraging you, and you will never be alone.

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Advantages of Prosthetic Legs!

Before I get into the advantages of prostheses, let me clarify a few minor things. Prosthetic legs are artificial limbs that are used in cases of amputation.

 

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  • Photo courtesy of bbc.com

 

Either one or both legs may be subjected to amputation for a variety of medical reasons. Amputations can be performed above or below the knee, depending on medical conditions. A variety of factors can make the use of prosthetic legs easier. However, not everyone who has one or two leg amputations wants to or can wear prosthetic legs. There are, however, some big advantages to using prosthetic legs for those who are able and willing.

The first advantage is energy use. According to the Amputee Coalition, when the prosthetic legs are well fitted and the patients have good gaits, they expend less energy in walking, in comparison to walking without prosthetic legs or using crutches.

The second advantage is mobility. For people with two leg amputations, the choice is between prosthetic legs and a wheelchair. Some patients, even those with single amputations, prefer the comfort of a wheelchair or choose to avoid prosthetic legs for a variety of reasons including financial ones. But, prosthetic legs allow amputees the option of going upstairs, downstairs, in tight areas or even cars and other methods of transportation with more ease. Also, there are areas that are not accessible by wheelchairs, like older buildings.

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Photo courtesy of deviantart.com

 

Although, there has been an increased awareness of making areas available to the handicapped. Most importantly, prosthetic legs provide a greater sense of independence thanks to that amazing prosthetic mobility.

Finally, there is the psychological advantage. People can gain a better psychological outlook on life by mastering the use of prosthetic legs, whether they are using one or two.

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Photo courtesy of thebetterindia.com

 

According to the Amputee Coalition of America, amputees feel less discomfort with their conditions when wearing prosthetic legs because of the ability to blend in better with the crowd. Also, people who do not have the opportunity to wear prosthetic legs feel cheated and can become bitter and frustrated. I am proof of this situation. Whenever my prosthesis would break as a child, I would end up being in a wheelchair until my prosthesis got fixed. I always felt uncomfortable and frustrated with this, and I obviously couldn’t really blend in with my friends. Fortunately, I have good prostheses right now, and I am more careful with them so that I won’t break them again! Lessons learned!

These are the advantages that I have found for why I wear prosthetic legs. I know they are not for everyone. There are some definite disadvantages that many people find with prostheses, but we won’t focus on those today!

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6 Misconceptions About Being An Amputee!

I’d like to take this opportunity and clarify the following misconceptions about being an amputee. I am clearing up these misconceptions almost daily. Enjoy!

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Photo courtesy of wordpress.com


Misconception #1: I Was Involved in a Tragic Accident or I am a Veteran
Fortunately some amputees, like myself, have never had to go through something as tragic as losing a limb in combat or losing it in a car wreck. There are so many ways to lose a limb. Cancer, diabetes, and other diseases are major factors in limb loss and amputation. Ask me instead of assuming it was tragic. 

Misconception #2: I’m Used To It, So It Doesn’t Bother Me
This is a very common statement I hear often. I was born with missing limbs, and when I tell people this, their initial response is, “Oh, so you’re used to it, that’s good. It doesn’t bother you much then.” Wrong! It doesn’t matter if I have always been an amputee, or I just became one. This is not something that someone just gets used to. It always bothers me. It bothers me when my friends are able to go do things that I am physically limited at. It bothers me when you stare and secretly whisper to your friend. It bothers me that the first impression that someone has of me is my legs. It bothers me that you don’t think to ask about how I’m doing because you think I’m “used to it.” Being physically and visibly different than the vast majority of people I am around is never something I’ll get used to. I get over it and cope, but guess what… sometimes it still sucks.


Misconception #3: I Don’t Want You to Ask About My Prosthesis

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Photo courtesy of quora.com


Please.. Please.. Please ask me instead of gawking with your mouth wide open. Parents, if your child is looking at my leg, don’t hurry them to look away. Encourage them to talk to me because I love kiddos. It could be a very good learning opportunity for them and you. Encourage them to ask me about how I lost my legs and how my legs work. They can learn that being different is awesome. I love explaining how my legs work and what happened to me. Explaining how it works makes me sound smart and like a scientist. Any opportunity I get to share my story means I can change someone’s life and their perspective.


Misconception #4: I Always Want to Talk About My Disability
A lot of people want to remind me that I am an inspiration, and they want to know what happened. But sometimes I just don’t want to talk about my prosthesis and what happened to me! I just want to talk about my day, or my love for running (which I talk about it a lot). We don’t always want to be reminded that we are an inspiration. I live with my disability every day, and talking about it doesn’t make my disability better. It just reminds me that I have a disability.

Misconception #5: Having a Prosthesis is Just Like Having a Real Leg
“You’re so lucky you have prostheses… It’s pretty similar to walking like you have two real legs.” As grateful as I am to be blessed with prostheses and to be able to walk, this statement makes me mad… so just… No. It’s so much harder. Things break and rip and hurt… constantly.


Misconception #6: I Can’t Laugh at My Situation

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Photo courtesy of someecards.com


Having one leg or no legs is actually hilarious to me. There are so many things that I or my loved ones can say that are just funny. “Tanya, if you leave your leg outside, the dogs will eat it.” “Tanya, don’t hit your sisters with your leg. “Tanya, I will take your leg off and beat you with it.” I laugh at myself before anyone else can. That’s what makes me strong. One of my favorite quotes is from Steel Magnolias. “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

What other misconceptions do you clear up daily?

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10 Facts About The Paralympics

The Olympic Games are over. Now it is on to Paralympic games! Did you know that Paralympic games are younger than Olympics? However, they have grown tremendously to include more than 170 countries and 4,000 elite athletes. These athletes compete in wheelchairs, with prosthetics, without senses such as hearing or sight, in more than 20 different sports.

 

1. The Paralympics made its debut in Rome in 1960 in conjunction with the summer Olympic Games.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

According to OUPblog.com, it all really began in 1948, when sports for athletes with impairments were widely introduced as a way of helping injured WWII vets. Dr. Ludwig Guttman was treating a number of patients wit h spinal cord injuries and organized an archery competition for wheelchair athletes. This led to the first official international competition known as Paralympic Games in 1960. Years later, the Paralympic Games expanded to include winter sports debuting in Sweden in 1976.

 

2. The word “Paralympics” means “next to the Olympics.”

The Greek word para translates to “alongside of.” Since both games occur around the same time in the same cities, original organizers used the prefix to form the name “Paralympics.”

 

3. Athletes are divided into classifications “to minimize the impact of impairment on the outcome of competition.”

A panel of international classifiers determines where athletes should be placed. For the Winter Paralympic Games, competitors with vision and physical impairments compete, and most events are divided into vision, sitting, and standing categories.

 

4. This year, the Winter Paralympics events consist of alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, snowboarding, and wheelchair curling.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

The Paralympic sporting events often change. For example, ice sledge racing was a competitive event until 1998, when it was eliminated from the Paralympics. In 2022, there are hopes to see bobsledding, a sport where the sleds are controlled by just one athlete at a time, included in competition.

 

5. Vision-impaired athletes compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and the biathlon.

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Photo Courtesy of empirestatewintergames.com

 

These legally blind athletes compete with a guide who assists them during their events and are ultimately responsible for their safety. For alpine skiing, guides communicate by radio, and the athletes have microphones in their ear while racing down the hill at speeds around 75 mph! For the biathlon, when it comes to the shooting portion, athletes use a specialized laser beam rifle and aim for the target via sound.

 

6. Both para ice hockey and wheelchair curling are mixed events, meaning that men and women can compete with each other.

 

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

When it comes to wheelchair curling, athletes don’t need to use a wheelchair in daily life to compete, as the event is inclusive for those who have lower-body impairments but can still walk short distances.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

For para ice hockey, athletes are seated on sledges — which are basically sleds with blades — and use double-ended sticks with a spike on one end for propelling them on the ice and a blade on the other end to pass and shoot the puck. While this sport has been “open to women” since 2010, it has been male-dominated since its debut in ’94.

 

7. Norway has won the most gold medals overall for the Paralympic Winter Games.

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Photo courtesy of 1460espnyakima.com

 

Norwegians have competed in every Paralympic Winter Games since 1976 and currently have 135 gold medals.

 

8. According to Paralympic.org, overall, 48 nations and over 550 athletes are competing in 2018 in PyeongChang.

The final number of countries may still change last minute. There will be 80 total events. Snowboarding is debuting this year which will expand the medal sports to 10.

 

9. This is the first-ever Winter Paralympics that North Korean athletes are expected to compete in.

While the country has been represented in two summer games, this is the first-time that athletes have the chance to compete. Two North Korean athletes will compete in para Nordic skiing for the winter games.

 

10. And of course, the most talked about subject of the games is Russia! Athletes from Russia were banned from the games, but they are still able to participate as neutrals.

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Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

 

Due to a widespread doping scandal, Russian athletes can only compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” in PyeongChang after having been banned fully since Rio 2016.

 

As interesting those previous facts are, the most important fact is when and where it is all happening! The games begin on March 9th in PyeongChang in South Korea and continue until the 19th! You can watch 94 hours of television and a total of 250 hours of coverage for the Paralympics on NBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

Go Team USA and Go Team Belarus!