A Global Revolution by Ludwig Guttman: The Paralympic Movement
A Global Revolution by Ludwig Guttman: The Paralympic Movement


Dr. Ludwig Guttman was a man worthy of all the praise. He was a German neurosurgeon who came up with the brilliance of the Paralympic. However, that is not the only high point of his career. Being on the top in the field of neurosurgery, the man’s name comes with many amazing and historical events. He was the first doctor who initiated the treatment of Non-Jewish patients.

Along with that, he was also the first one who started helping the veterans of World War II. In his entire life and career, the man did some brilliant services for his field, which led to worldwide fame. The recent one is Google celebrating his birthday via a doodle image. To find out more about him, keep reading the article below as it contains the high points of his entire career. 

How Did He Kickstart his Career?

The name of Dr. Ludwig Guttman is associated with some of the best work in the field of neurosurgery. However, he was behind a lot more than merely the medical field. He worked for people in more ways than his colleagues at the time. Guttman opened his eyes to a German and strictly Jewish family.

The man started pursuing his career in the field of medicine in 1924. However, the real work began when he joined Professor Otfrid Foerster in 1928. After 5 peaceful years of his career, in 1933, after the attack of the Nazis, he was forced back to Breslau. He was elected as the Medical Director of the hospital in Breslau in 1937. 

The real deal began when he went against the law in 1938. The law was that a Jewish doctor was only allowed to treat a Jewish patient. Being the Medical Director and a great neurosurgeon, he defied this law openly.

Guttman stated that any patient walking into his hospital can get treatment. However, that cost him the job, and along with his family, he had to flee Germany. From there, he moved to England became a second home 

Dr. Ludwig Guttman Time in England 

After moving to England, Guttman did not abandon his career. Instead, he settled at Oxford and continued his research projects. After a while, his career took a turn and he started working for Head Injuries. He continued working at the Radcliffe Infirmary and St Hugh’s College Military Hospital till the early 1940s.

St Hugh’s College Military Hospital
St Hugh’s College Military Hospital (source google)

In 1943, the medical career of Guttman took a boost in England. He was offered the position of the head of a new department. This department was for the veterans that were suffering from spinal injuries. This hospital was at Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. This place holds a very important part in the life of Sir Ludwig Guttman, so you may want to remember it.

Being stubborn that he was, he only accepted this position with one of his demands. His demand was that they would let him treat patients as he sees fit and never meddle in between. After he got the green signal, he began this chapter of his career, which is also the major turning point of his entire medical career. 

The Idea of Physiotherapy By Guttman

The thing about Dr. Guttman is that he did not believe in the traditional and old-fashioned ways of treating handicapped patients. He did not treat spinal injuries through the textbook method.

Instead, he followed the footsteps of Dr. Munro, from the US. Guttman did not believe in the old ways of treating spinal injuries. He believed that staying still would do more damage than curing. Therefore, he came up with treatments that involved moving the patients around.

This is how the idea of physiotherapy was first introduced in England. The idea was to move the patients around regularly. So that their muscles do not become sore and stop working altogether. Being a core believer that sports could be life-changing, Guttman singlehandedly came up with various activities for patients with spinal injuries. 

Beginning Of the Paralympic Movement 

The first sport to come out of the brilliant mind of Guttman was wheelchair polo and hockey. After years of work, he instigated the first tournament of wheelchair games in no other place than Stoke Mandeville.

Paralympic Movement 
Paralympic Movement (source google)

In 1948, an archery contest was arranged for the veterans of the War. This goes without saying that the participants were all suffering from spinal injuries, they received during the war. The competition even had a winner’s cup which the patients from the town of Surrey won.

This was the first-ever tournament between the patients with spinal injuries. At that time, no one knew that one day this would turn into one of the largest worldwide sports tournaments. 

After the first year’s success, this one-time tournament turned into an annual thing. The sports took the name of the ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’. Every year, a new sport got introduced to the tournament. After being a sensation across the country, in 1952, this sporting event went international.

A team from the Netherlands came to participate. The following year, one came from Canada. The same was the case in 1954 when a team of injured patients came from Egypt, Australia, and Israel. Every year, there were more participants as well as spectators. People came to the town of Stoke Mandeville solely for the tournament.


What did it take the Shape of an International Event? 

1960 was the year when the idea of holding the tournament outside of Stoke Mandeville was first mentioned. That year, the International Stoke Mandeville Games happened in Rome, following the Olympics.

A week after the Olympics ended, 400 participants from around the globe gathered in Rome for the first-ever Paralympic games. At the time they were still the ‘International Stoke Mandeville Games.’ After that year, it became a tradition to hold the tournament in its birth town, Stoke Mandeville, except for the year of the Olympics.

During the year of the Olympics, the tournament would take place, wherever the Olympics would take place. This tradition went till 1974, with a few ups and downs. In 1974, there was a change. Guttman opened the doors of the tournament to two other types of patients, amputees, and the visually impaired. 

The World remembers Ludwig Guttman as the Father of Paralympic Movement

In 1976, these games took the title of Olympiad for the Physically Disabled in Toronto. Every following year, the tournament had more turnout than the previous. As the name of the Stoke Mandeville Games was gaining more fame, unfortunately, Dr. Ludwig Guttman did not live to see it happen.

He passed away in 1980 due to heart failure. However, his legacy continued, even after his passing. It grew even more. The name Paralympic Games was given to this tournament for the first time in 1988 in Korea. In the following year, the International Paralympic Committee linked the Paralympics and the Olympics.

Since then, the two major sports events are inter-connected. They even take place in the same country. Today, the Paralympic tournament is one of the 3 largest worldwide tournaments. Due to untiring efforts of Ludwig Guttman in this field, the world remembers him as the ‘Father of Paralympic Movement’.


People recognize the name of Dr. Ludwig Guttman in the honor of the Paralympic Games. However, the amazing mind of Guttman was behind so much more than these tournaments. He had a core belief that sports can be life-changing, especially for patients with spinal injuries. He dedicated his entire life to treating his patients in non-textbook ways. Today his legacy continues in the name of the Paralympic Games. 

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