How Ludwig Guttmann will be remembered

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Legacy' page

"If I could say anything to Sir Ludwig it would be, "Thank you"... Before he did his rehab work at Stoke Mandeville, if you broke your back or your neck you were just left in hospital to die; it was that simple." Tanni Grey Thompson

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Legacy' page
Watch Tanni Grey Thompson's tribute to Ludwig Guttmann here 

“His philosophy of dedicated management of spinal injury patients from injury to the grave is still credible today and has whenever possible been adopted around the world…Guttmann made Stoke Mandeville into a successful model for others to copy.” Professor Wagih El-Masri

 When Ludwig Guttmann started work at the Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville, life expectancy for paraplegics was only two years from the time of injury.  Guttmann refused to accept that a spinal injury was a death sentence, and his advancements in the treatment of paraplegia have revolutionised the field.  He influenced and taught a whole generation of physicians from all over the world in his methods, and centres were established worldwide (including those named after him in Barcelona, Heidelberg and in Israel). 

"Guttmann was very clear in his own mind that because of the complexity of spinal injuries and the multiple ways in which they affected patients and because of the need for simultaneous, adequate management of both the medical and the non-medical effects, then the only appropriate system of service provision for patients was in specialist centres that could provide a team with the knowledge and skills specific for each patient." Professor El-Masri

"Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s vision for changing the lives of those with spinal cord injury has achieved so much but his lasting legacy is that you must always ask yourself “What needs to be done now?” That is the challenge he has handed down to each of his successors." Dr. Allison Graham, Clinical Director, National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville

The  Paralympics

Guttmann was known as “The father of the Paralympic movement”; he was the pioneer who proved that disabled sport could be as competitive and exciting as non-disabled sport.  It was his drive and determination to include a section in the Olympics for disabled sportsmen and women that follows through into the provision of the Paralympic Games today.  London 2012 will be the closest that the world has ever got to  Guttmann’s vision with the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games being organised in tandem.  However, there is still a little way to go to see the two events combined together into one sporting festival where disabled athletes compete alongside their non-disabled counterparts.

Photo:The sports hall

The sports hall

photo IWAS

After injury Guttmann focussed an individual’s mind on what they can do rather than regretting  what they can no longer do. Through sport Guttmann gave that person back the will to live a full life with pride and self-respect. Bob Paterson, IWAS


Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Legacy' page


Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Legacy' page

photo D Tussler






"The aim of the Stoke Mandeville Games is to unite paralysed men and women from all parts of the world in an international sports movement, and your spirit of true sportsmanship today will give hope and inspiration to thousands of paralysed people"

Forty five years on the terminology may have changed but the core message remains the same. That statement of intent was first unveiled for the Stoke Mandeville International Games in 1956 (seen on the left); it was then hung in the new sports stadium when it opened in 1969 (top right); and it then went to the archery room at the hospital (bottom right). 

"Ludwig Guttmann once said, “If I ever did one good thing in my medical career it was to introduce sport into the rehabilitation of disabled people”. This is still true today and manifests itself through the organisation WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport whose base is at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, which he established as the British Paraplegic Sports Society and which aims to transform lives through sport.  Providing opportunities for young and newly disabled people to benefit from participation in sport is key to their rehabilitation and personal development." Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive, Wheelpower - British Wheelchair Sport


This page was added on 06/04/2011.

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