February 2013

Sled Hockey Florida Adaptive Sports

Sled Hockey Makes Winter an ‘Ice’ Time for Adaptive Sports

Cheryl Price is a 35-year-old woman from Boca Raton, Florida. She is probably the last person you’d expect to find playing ice hockey, considering that she lives in sunny Florida and is paralyzed from the waist down from a spinal cord injury she suffered at birth. Thanks to the Florida Panthers Sled Hockey Team, she’s hitting the ice and loving every minute of it.

Florida Panthers Sled Hockey Clinic Athletes

The first time Price took to the ice she was hesitant, but her teammates coaxed her along. With each pass of the arena, she became more comfortable. On September 30th, she was one of just 15 participants in an sled hockey clinic, which organizers hope will lead to the team traveling and competing against other sled hockey teams in the future.

Sled hockey first came about in Stockholm, Sweden during the 1960s. Several National Hockey League teams have gotten involved in promoting the sport here in the United States, and the Florida Panthers jumped on board.

Florida Panthers Sled Hockey Clinic

“Don’t weep for anyone here,” said Ron Robichaud, head of the Florida Sled Hockey Association. “This sport is full check, full contact. These people want you to cheer for them because they are playing well, not because they are disabled.”

The sport is expensive, much like traditional hockey. A sled will cost $700, and equipment runs $1,000 per player. Insurance is covered at no additional expense to the participant.

Florida Sled Hockey Adaptive Sports

The cost is well worth it when you see the smiles on the faces as the players leave the ice. Daniella Lombardi, a 26-year-old woman who was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident in 2006, is a full-time student and active sled hockey participant.

“When I started playing hockey in Tampa, there were people with worse conditions than mine and they were happy,” Lombardi said. “It is truly the best medicine and the best therapy I have ever received.”

Sled Hockey Adaptive Sports in Florida

The team is looking for players and volunteers, including non-disabled volunteers, so the program can reach more athletes.

“There is no league yet, but it looks like it will finally take off (in Coral Springs),” Robichaud said. “Florida is on the map for sled hockey. We have the whole country talking. There wasn’t a frown coming off the ice today.”


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Florida Changes Warehousing Disabled Children in Nursing Homes

Fewer Kids with Disabilities Will Be Placed in Florida Nursing Homes

In December, we covered the controversy surrounding Florida’s system of warehousing children with disabilities. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) responded after intense public outcry. Now Florida is vowing to keep as many children out of nursing homes and with their parents as possible, and to make sure the lives of those who do need to be in nursing homes are improved.

A series of new policies was outlined by Liz Dudek, the head of the Agency for Health Care Administration. Dudek appeared before the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, where she stated, “We want to make sure parents make a choice with the best information they can get.”

Florida Nursing Homes Will Warehouse Fewer Kids with Disabilities

The AHCA has an “enhanced care” plan for children in nursing homes now. The changes include ensuring each child has a nurse care coordinator to communicate with the family, and assistance finding local resources for in-home care for families that want their children to return home.

These changes have occurred The Miami Herald covered a detailed story describing the plight of Marie Freyre, a 14-year-old girl who died in 2011, after child welfare workers decided to place her in a nursing home 250 miles away from her family. Despite her mother’s pleas, state workers transported the girl, and she died within 12 hours of arriving at the nursing home.

Marie Freyre with Cerebral Palsy Died in Florida Nursing Home

Even in the face of inquiries and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and state lawmakers, Dudek stands by her belief that the agency has not violated any provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which clearly explains that frail and disabled patients should be in the “least restrictive” setting possible.

“These reports that they throw somebody in a back room somewhere, where it’s not at all child-based, where they don’t talk to the child, that’s not true at all,” Dudek said.

Florida’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) has also defended the handling of Marie, who had cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. The organization claims that a Tampa judge had not ordered the state to return Marie to her mother’s custody, despite a previous court order signed on March 30, 2011 that stated “the child shall be returned to the mother,” adding, “services are in-home from midnight to 7a.m.”

A DCF administrator claimed, “We did not violate a court order. The judge asked us to explore getting 24-hour care.”

But armed with countless documents and parent testimonials, the DOJ demanded changes be made, and now Florida is being forced to comply.

What have been your experiences with institutional care for children with disabilities, in Florida or in other state facilities?


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Regenerative Medicine Researching Mexican Axolotl Salamander

Salamander, Mouse Show Potential for Human Regenerative Medicine

For years, regenerative medicine scientists have studied the unique regenerating abilities of Mexican salamanders known as axolotls. The small, lizard-like amphibian can regrow missing limbs that are commonly lost to predators. Now, researchers are also studying an impressive little mammal known as the African spiny mouse, which has similar salamander-like regenerative abilities. Despite the comic book superhero-like abilities of these dynamic little creatures, don’t get your hopes up that human regeneration is here quite yet.

In the research conducted at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies and recently published in Development, Growth & Differentiation and Developmental Biology, researchers discovered that it isn’t enough to simply activate the genes that kick-start the regenerative process in the Mexican axolotl. Instead, they found that jumping genes have to be shackled, or they have the possibility of moving around the genomes of the cell into tissue destined to become new limbs, which would disrupt the process of regrowing the limb.

Regenerative Medicine Studying Mexican Axolotl Salamander

The researchers found that two proteins, piwi-like 1 (PL1) and piwi-like 2 (PL2) are responsible for settling down the jumping genes in the tadpole stage of development, which is when the salamander can regrow everything from parts of the brain to the spinal cord and tail.

“As complex as it already seems, it might seem a hopeless task to try to regenerate a limb or body part in humans, especially since we don’t know if humans even have all the genes necessary for regeneration,” says Tony Hunter, a professor at the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and Director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center. “For this reason, it is important to understand how regeneration works at a molecular level in a vertebrate that can regenerate as a first step. What we learn may eventually lead to new methods for treating human conditions, such as wound healing and regeneration of simple tissues.”

Researchers now have more than just the little salamander from Mexico to study now, thanks to a discovery of an adorable and fuzzy rodent from Africa. While studying scar-free healing in amphibians, a colleague of Ashley Seifert, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Florida’s biology department, told him about a remarkable mouse that seemed able to self-amputate a body part to escape predators. The news sent Seifert packing to Africa.

Regenerative Medicine Studying African Spiny Mouse

“The African spiny mouse appears to regenerate ear tissue in much the way that a salamander regrows a limb that has been lost to a predator,” said Seifert. “Skin, hair follicles, cartilage–it all comes back.”

In most mammals, this is not the case. Instead of regenerating tissue, scar tissue forms to fill in the gaps that are created by wounds. While the spiny mouse can regrow a lost chunk of its ear, it can’t quite regenerate lost limbs. However, it can regrow hair follicles and skin on the back, something researchers are studying in more detail in hopes it could help wound healing in humans down the road.

Researchers Find African Spiny Mouse Regenerates Skin, Hair, Cartilage


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