You’ve probably never heard of Ludwig Guttmann, even though he changed the world forever with one event. He was a German-British neurologist who established the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948, which today have evolved into the Paralympics Games that we know today. The games are meant to showcase athletes with disabilities as competitively as athletes without disabilities, and as you can see from the date of its inception, it was something that Dr. Ludwig Guttmann believed in long before most others had recognized its importance.
Who is Dr. Ludwig Guttmann?
Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was born in Walsrode, Germany, on December 14, 1899. He attended school there until his family moved to Berlin in 1914, he completed his high school education there and began to study medicine at Freiburg University in 1916. However, he interrupted his studies to serve as an artillery officer in World War I, after being wounded he returned to Freiburg and received his medical degree in 1922. Shortly thereafter, Guttmann enrolled in a program for foreign students at Puncher Hospital near Vienna where he studied neurology under Oskar Rye and neuropathology under August von Wassermann.
Until 1939, when Hitler’s takeover limited his ability to practice medicine because of his mixed German/Jewish ancestry, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann maintained an active and successful career in neurological research. When Nazi control prevented him from obtaining or publishing papers and continuing his neurological research, Ludwig fled to England, where he hoped to continue his scientific work undisturbed by persecution. After emigrating, he joined Oxford University as Senior Physician at its Nuffield Department of Neurosurgery which he served through 1954 before taking a position at the Institute of Neurological Science in Glasgow where he remained Head of Neurological Services until 1970. On June 27th 1948, tragedy struck Dr. Guttmann when a mass polio outbreak occurred in Slough.
At least 17 people were paralyzed and others experienced aches, headaches, sore throats, nausea and vomiting; health officials determined that all but one of those stricken had been exposed to virus during swimming in local water bodies. During treatment with immobilization methods developed by UGu Carlotta (the inventor of electroconvulsive therapy), it would be more effective if patients could maintain mobility while undergoing rehabilitation.
Dr. Ludwig Guttmann was a Neurologist who changed the world with the Stoke Mandeville Games
Dr. Ludwig Guttmann’s contributions to neurology and sports medicine were truly remarkable for their innovation, creativity, and ambition. Dr. Guttmann challenged accepted thinking about paralysis and rehabilitation, directing his intellect and talent toward creating an entirely new field of applied science which is today known as physical therapy.
Thanks to Dr. Ludwig daring initiative in 1948, patients suffering from spinal cord injuries were given an opportunity to walk again – even though conventional wisdom at that time believed they would never do so Today’s Paralympics Games have evolved into a major international multi-sport event involving thousands of athletes competing in twenty-one sports while serving as a platform for promoting equal opportunities regardless of physical limitations or ability on an annual basis since 1960! What began back then as something utterly simple has grown over time into one of sport’s most revered traditions.
The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) actively organizes Paralympics sporting events worldwide to reach out to growing audiences to show them through example what’s possible when human beings put their minds together towards goals greater than themselves, when people accept each other’s differences and use those differences as building blocks rather than stumbling blocks, when we all work together towards common dreams with selfless determination! We can only achieve our full potential by investing in others. Every athlete who competes in these Games wants to be better than they are right now, better than yesterday.
Ludwig Guttmann CBE FRS and the Development of Physical Therapy
Dr. Guttmann noticed that World War II veterans injured in war had no rehabilitation options and decided to change that. He created games as therapy for patients. He founded The Stoke Mandeville Hospital which has contributed so much over decades to Physical Therapy and is one of his greatest contributions to society today. He also helped create wheelchair sport events which have now become Paralympics events worldwide, like Wheelchair basketball, Wheelchair rugby, and more. More than just an inspiration he is an icon in history of physical therapy that should be known by everyone.
He conducted research into spinal cord injuries as well as developing many different types of prosthetics and surgical procedures. To mark his achievements he received several honorary degrees and awards including being elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1946 and awarded a knighthood in 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Honors list for services to paraplegics. He died peacefully aged 92 at Buckinghamshire County Hospital on 4 June 1972. Guttmann started working at London’s University College Hospital in 1906 where he worked alongside future Nobel Laureate Francis Walsh, researching diseases affecting dogs’ legs. He worked under Gordon Holmes, an expert on pathology who demonstrated a link between toxins from tetanus and botulism leading to paralysis.
It was also around that time that he collaborated with scientist George Barger studying how liquids absorbed into tissues whilst also studying how cells remove waste material produced when nutrients are broken down. Due to these achievements he decided upon neuropathology as his main focus moving forward.