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Ice Hockey With MS: "I Realized I Shouldn't Just Stop Everything and let MS defeat me."

Andrew Swinfen is a 24-year-old with MS from South Wales, UK. He works as a telesales executive in his country and plays a sport called ice sledge hockey. When Andrew told me about the sport I had no idea what it was! Sledge hockey (known as sled hockey in the United States) is a sport that was designed to allow participants who have a physical disability to play the game of ice hockey. Ice sledge hockey was invented in the early 1960s in Stockholm, Sweden at a rehabilitation center. It is currently one of the most popular sports in the Paralympic Games.

Now that this is out of the way, let’s see what Andrew has to say about his sport, MS, and his life.

David Lyons: When and how were you diagnosed with MS?

Andrew Swinfen: I was diagnosed in 2008 when I was 18 years of age. I had a number of tests done in the hospital such as blood tests, CAT scans, MRI scans and lumber puncture. I had various relapses leading up to this, such as double vision in the eyesight, Bell’s Palsy of the left side of my face and a minor stroke which paralyzed the whole left side of my body. Walking and using my arm was a nightmare, and I slurred my speech when talking.

DL: You play disability sport ice sledge hockey for the Cardiff Devils. Can you tell me a little about this?

AS: The Cardiff Devils are a successful ice hockey team in the UK based in Cardiff South Wales whom I regularly go and watch. While MS is a disability, I wanted to carry on playing sports and to keep my fitness. I came across Ice Sledge Hockey whilst browsing the Internet one day looking at Summer/Winter Paralympics. I asked the Cardiff Devils if they heard about Ice Sledge Hockey and they told me they had a team — I’ve been playing for nearly two years now.

DL: Why did you decide to start playing ice sledge hockey?

AS: After a good understanding about MS, I realized I shouldn’t just stop everything I used to do and let MS defeat me. I took great advice from my neurology nurses, family and friends to keep active and not to let it take over my life. I am a big ice hockey fan, and I missed playing the sport. The closest thing to playing ice hockey again is ice sledge hockey.

DL: How difficult is it to train for a sport like this with MS?

AS: It is very difficult as I fatigue very easily due to the MS, but I think this is something I need to work on. I have on and off days but try to forget about the MS. I have to eat properly and rest properly. I shouldn’t abuse my body and overdo it, burning the candle at both ends. Our season starts in May so I will have to eat the right things as well as train off the ice to help me get better at the sport.

DL: What is your daily training like?

AS: At the moment I try and get to the gym when I’m not in work or when I have some spare time. Even when I do attend the gym I only do small amounts of cardio. I need to start working on my upper body and strengthen my core as that’s what ice sledge hockey is all about — upper body strength and core strength to help move the sledge due to balance.
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