SPORTS ‘N SPOKES print returns in January 2023
It was October 1989, and I was serving in the Navy on recruiting duty in Minneapolis when I incurred a level T2 spinal-cord injury (SCI).
The Navy decided to keep me close to home and my family and sent me to a local rehab facility called the Sister Kenny Institute (now called the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute). At the time, there wasn’t a Department of Veterans Affairs SCI center in Minneapolis. The closest one was in Milwaukee.
When I arrived at Sister Kenny, I had a bit of an attitude. A bad attitude. A few days after my arrival, a staff member came into my room and told me some of the guys were getting together later in the gym to play some wheelchair basketball and wanted to know if I’d like to go down to watch or even give it a try. I clearly remember snapping at him, “I didn’t like basketball before this happened. Why the ‘bleep’ would I want to play it now?”
Like I said, bad attitude. The next day, Susan Hagel, the recreational therapist, came into my room. We spoke for a while about things I liked to do before my injury, and for me that was cycling. I spent several years racing in Europe when I was stationed in Rota, Spain.
At that time, handcycling hadn’t really entered the scene yet, but there were many other opportunities available. How did I know? Before Susan left my room that day, she gave me the latest copy of SPORTS ’N SPOKES (S’NS) magazine and I read through it.
During my time as S’NS editor, this is a story I’ve heard repeated many times, including at the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Healthcare Summit + Expo. It attracts health care professionals in the field of SCI/D medicine from across the country. I’ve attended many of these over the years, and PVA Publications typically has a booth there.
It was at the booth that I heard a consistent theme from the attendees: “SPORTS ’N SPOKES magazine is my best tool to show the newly injured what is possible in their new life.” Two years ago when S’NS went totally digital, it happened to coincide with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This wasn’t the reason we stopped the print version, but the timing probably couldn’t have been better.
During that period, virtually all sporting activities came to a halt, meaning less to write about. And the medical institutions, rehab facilities and many other businesses or organizations that received the magazine had stopped placing print materials in their waiting rooms or giving those materials to patients.
Pandemic aside, there are people on both sides of the fence on the issue of print or digital. Some people love reading their magazines on devices like an iPad, and there are those who like the feeling of paper and turning the pages.
One thing is certain: Getting a newly injured patient to go to the digital issue is far more challenging, if not impossible, versus having an actual print copy beside them. Part of the justification for going totally digital was the S’NS readership tends to be a younger crowd that ingests their media on tablets and smartphones. What wasn’t completely considered was the copy on the nightstand in the rehab facility that may motivate the next generation of wheelchair athletes.
The PVA Summit+Expo was held this past August in Dallas and was extremely well-attended. I wasn’t there, but PVA Publications staff who were inquired about the idea of bringing S’NS back to print. The feedback was unanimous — Summit attendees missed the print version for the reasons I cited and hoped it would come back soon.
I’m pleased to announce that starting with the January 2023 issue, S’NS will again be available in print. The digital versions will continue, as we realize there are readers with limited hand function and others who appreciate that format.
Personally, I’m just one of those people who likes the look and feel of paper, and I welcome the return of S’NS as a “real” magazine.