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Exploring the benefits of Table Tennis to people with long term health conditions

Blog by Teresa Bennett, Head of Development and coach at Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) ex PE teacher, School Games Organiser and Deb Bullen, Occupational Therapist at Sport for Confidence

Inspired by the launch of Sport England’s new 10 year strategy, Uniting the Movement, which stated the importance of collaboration of Health partners and Sport to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives, it is so good to feel part of this already.

Perhaps too often in the past sports clubs or Health Professionals have worked in isolation, so it is great to have an opportunity to work with Sport for Confidence on a project which could have a huge impact on getting people active.  We are now embarking on an exciting collaboration to produce an evidence-based guide about how table tennis can be utilised for therapeutic means and ends, which will include some case studies from the club.  

Brighton Table Tennis Club prides itself on being a true community club, being far more than somewhere just to play table tennis and a club that is fully inclusive and gives everyone an opportunity to play whatever their background or ability.

Deb came to the club as part of her Occupational Therapy (OT) training in 2019 and it was so good to have her supporting BTTC members in our sessions. Fascinated by what OTs do and also what Sport for Confidence was all about I asked Deb about her role.

Deb said:

“Occupational therapists consider and address how ill-health and disability impacts people’s ability to do things, whilst also using activities and occupations to promote health and well-being. OTs utilise a range of activities for assessment and intervention, often through grading, adapting, and modifying the activity to ultimately enable meaningful participation for those who wish to take part. 

“Sport for Confidence is a unique and innovative organisation placing allied health professionals, such as OTs, into leisure centres to support and deliver meaningful physical activity and sports sessions to anyone that faces barriers to participation. We use sporting activities for their therapeutic potential and also for their role in enabling people with a range of health conditions to build a resilient habit of being more active.” 

“After volunteering at BTTC and seeing how members benefited from playing table tennis, I started a table tennis session at Sport for Confidence. I have seen improvements in client’s coordination, balance, fine and gross motor skills, cognition, overall wellbeing, and of course there is the social element too. I am so pleased we are producing this resource and collaborating with BTTC.“ 

Sport for Confidence has already produced a resource with Boccia England (download here), which highlighted the inclusive nature of the sport and the potential for it to be used for therapeutic means and ends, which was endorsed by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. We hope the resource produced about table tennis by Sport for Confidence, illustrated by the innovative good practice at BTTC and support from Table Tennis England, will reach far and wide. Table tennis is such an accessible sport which we think can have huge benefits to people with a range of health conditions or people who have found other sports to difficult to access.

Digna Baynes. Photo by Alexis Maryon.
Digna Baynes. Photo by Alexis Maryon.

BTTC club member, Digna Baynes, an incredible woman with huge energy at the club, loved by all, who is living with Parkinson’s, told me how playing table tennis benefits her.

“Table tennis gives me lots of energy and helps my coordination, I enjoy it so much. When I am at home I cannot stand for too long but when I play table tennis I can stand for 2 or 3 hours playing!”

“My left side is particularly affected and when I am sitting down and then start walking I am very clumsy and rigid, but after I play table tennis I walk very well and feel less rigidity”

“I feel combined with my exercises and mediation, table tennis has slowed my illness down and stops me going downhill”

Digna is a shining example of the benefits of playing table tennis and one of many who are using this wonderful game to light up their lives. Video link: https://vimeo.com/297072277

We can’t wait for the table tennis resource to be completed and shared with as many different partners as possible; Allied Health Professionals, Public Health, GP surgeries, social prescribers, table tennis clubs and others.

For more information about the evidence-based guide or if you have a case study you would like to tell us about, please contact Teresa or Deb at: Teresa@brightontabletennisclub.com, Deb@sportforconfidence.com.

Posted on Feb 04, 2021