Paralympian aims high with health research

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Paralympian aims high with health research

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Published on 4 June 2014

A University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student who overcame adversity to become a stalwart of the Australian wheelchair basketball team is now researching ways to help other people with disabilities engage in elite sport.

Bridie Kean, 27, of Maroochydore has a wealth of life experience to complement her PhD study, titled “Inspire USC – enhancing motivation for physical activity through Paralympian-driven health communication”.

Bridie captained the Australian Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team to a silver medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

She also won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and represented Australia at the 2007 World Championships. Next month she will fly to Toronto for the 2014 championships.

“My research is very close to my heart as a Paralympian,” she said. “It explores how people who engage in elite sport have overcome any barriers to being physically active and what impact it has on their lives.”

When Bridie was just two she contracted a potentially-deadly form of meningitis and had to have both feet partially amputated. She still grew up loving sport but watching the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney really changed her life.

“It opened my eyes to sport for people with disabilities and how sports such as wheelchair basketball, by simply focusing on ability, result in the disability being removed as a factor,” she said.

“For me, sport has been the avenue to learning what I can do and to see what I can accomplish and control. Sport enables me to live a healthy life – and the potential for sport to do that for other people with disabilities is what I want to explore in my research.” 

Bridie’s PhD is being supervised by Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion Dr Florin Oprescu, Professor of Sport Science Brendan Burkett and Discipline Leader in Occupational Therapy Professor Marion Gray.

She has also joined her supervisors as a member of USC’s Cluster for Health Improvement, established to bring together leading researchers and build strategic partnerships to enhance community health outcomes.

The research cluster will be officially launched from 4pm on Thursday 5 June at USC.

– David Cameron

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