Adaptive Sports Medicine Program

A Specialized Resource for Young Athletes with Physical Disabilities

The Adaptive Sports Medicine Program

Our program is a joint venture from the Departments of Sports Medicine and Orthopedics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Participation in sports offers important benefits, such as physical fitness, social interaction and mental wellbeing, to everyone – but these advantages may be particularly significant for young people with physical disabilities. Our experts offer children, adolescents, and young adults with physical disabilities a host of tailored resources to help them enter and excel in athletics confidently and comfortably.

The Adaptive Sports Medicine Program welcomes all children, adolescents and young adults with physical disabilities such as limb deficiency, limb deformity, pediatric amputation, limb loss, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and others. We provide young athletes individualized treatment, injury evaluation and diagnosis, rehabilitation, performance training, and strength and conditioning care. Our experts also partner with athletic trainers, child prosthetic specialists, the Sports Nutrition team, the Honda Center for Gait Analysis and Mobility Enhancement (GAME), and many other programs and services at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the community to provide comprehensive care for every athlete.

Please call to schedule an appointment.

What to Expect When You Visit the Adaptive Sports Medicine Clinic

Appointments at the clinic may include:

  • Check-in and a health history taken by an athletic trainer
  • A thorough physical exam or assessment by Dr. Napolitano
  • Additional performance, imaging or motion studies as scheduled
  • Creation and discussion of a customized treatment or athletic training plan
  • Appropriate referrals to additional adaptive medicine resources at Nationwide Children’s or in the community
  • Initiation of a rehabilitation or athletic performance plan with an athletic trainer
  • Training for any at-home therapy or exercise that is recommended
  • Sports nutrition counseling

Who Can be Seen at The Clinic?

The Adaptive Sports Medicine Program provides an individualized treatment experience for each and every patient. Our physicians and staff are trained to treat injuries, pain and functional problems and to provide athletic training for youth with a range of physical disabilities, including:

  • Congenital or acquired amputations
  • Limb deformities
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Spina bifida
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Combinations of intellectual and physical impairment
  • Other conditions, such as muscular dystrophy

Meet Our Leadership

Now, young athletes with physical disabilities can see a physician formally trained and board-certified in both sports medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Jonathan Napolitano, MD, leads the Adaptive Sports Medicine Program. Dr. Napolitano has a specialized understanding of musculoskeletal health, amputee gait biomechanics and the common stress and overuse injuries facing children with physical disabilities.

He utilizes state-of-the-art technology, such as 3-D motion analysis, to dynamically assess anatomy and evaluate injuries.

Meet Our Team


Physical Therapy

Certified Hand Therapist

Functional Therapy 

Athletic Trainers 

The Importance of Getting and Staying Active

Physical activity can offer benefits to every young person, but exercise may be especially valuable for youth with physical disabilities. Appropriate functional accommodations, expert care in case of injury, and access to specialized training can help physically disabled youth confidently and comfortably take part in a wide range of activities.

Participation in sports offers the chance to:

  • lower body mass index
  • improve self-esteem
  • reduce depression
  • improve social skills and relationships
  • help build a long-term resource network
  • improve long-term heart and lung health
  • develop skills such as sportsmanship, teambuilding, leadership and resilience

Athletes of all skill levels, as well as those with no prior participation in sports, are welcome to schedule an assessment with the Adaptive Sports Medicine Program.

Runner in wheelchair.

The Importance of Activity for Kids with Physical Disabilities

Cheering fans and screaming athletes are familiar sounds in gymnasiums and fields across the country. From little league baseball to track and field, over 70 percent of children 6 to 12 years old participated in an individual or team sport in 2016.

Research and Innovation

Our experts conduct innovative research about adaptive sports medicine for children, adolescent, and young adult athletes with physical disabilities. We collaborate with other experts from multiple specialties at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and beyond, to continue to improve adaptive sports medicine care for children everywhere.

Research interests and current studies include identifying the benefits and barriers to sports participation for athletes with disabilities, physical activity in children with limb deficiencies and motion analysis of gait and adaptive sports. 

Dr. Napolitano serves as medical director of The Ohio State University Adaptive Sports Medicine Research Program. Learn more about The Ohio State University Adapted Sports Institute here.

Other Adaptive Medicine Resources at Nationwide Children’s

Patients of the Adaptive Sports Medicine Program also have access to all of the program’s extended resources, including:

Community Adaptive Sports Calendar

View upcoming adaptive sports activities in our community.

image of athlete with lower limb loss

Limb Loss: Adapting to the Challenges and Reaching Milestones

A limb difference or deficiency involves accepting the appearance, battling body image concerns and learning to use adaptive prosthetic equipment.

Runner in wheelchair.

The Importance of Activity for Kids with Physical Disabilities

Cheering fans and screaming athletes are familiar sounds in gymnasiums and fields across the country. From little league baseball to track and field, over 70 percent of children 6 to 12 years old participated in an individual or team sport in 2016.

image of wheelchair athlete on a track

Shoulder Pain and Injury in the Adaptive Athlete

Based on the mechanics of adaptive sports, there is a much higher risk of upper extremity and shoulder injury in athletes with physical disabilities. The best strategy for combating these injuries is appropriate injury prevention strategies and training.

Sports Medicine Resources

We partner with parents and coaches to focus on injury prevention, conditioning and age-appropriate activities. We have compiled sport-specific information as well as general resources to help young athletes and the people who provide their training.