2023 Düsseldorf Invictus Games: Recovery through sport

While the international sporting significance of the Invictus Games has been exponentially growing, the actual event has a relatively short history in comparison to similar multinational and global sporting events such as the Olympics Games. The Invictus Games were first hosted in London in 2014 to support injured, wounded and sick veteran and active service personnel in their recovery. The multi-sport event was established by Prince Harry, who had been inspired by the American Warrior Games and wished to create a similar multisport event in Britain. The name ‘Invictus’ was given to the Games to symbolise the ‘undefeated’ spirit of the participants and the potential road for rehabilitation via sport. Since 2014 the number of participating countries has grown from 14 to 20 and it is expected that the Games’ popularity will continue to evolve with more countries, competitors and sport involved.

The 2023 Games will include ten sports, which are archery, cycling, swimming, athletics, power lifting, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball and table tennis – to be introduced the first time. These adapted sport activities offer excellent opportunities for wounded, injured and sick ex and still serving military personnel to engage with the Games on multiple levels and compete with other athletes with similar background and experience from different countries. In addition to competitors, the Invictus Games also consider and include relatives and friends. This is because family and friends are integral to competitors’ recovery and reintegration. Furthermore, family and friends often also have to adapt and make changes to their life to help their loved ones’ post-injury recovery journey. In fact, one of the main goals of the Invictus Games is to bring veterans and serving military personnel closer to communities of support and to showcase the ‘undefeated’ spirit and attitude that is part of their everyday life to the general public.

Currently, the British Royal Legion is leading the British Team’s selection and preparation. In December 2022 they released a tender for the evaluation of the 2023 Düsseldorf Invictus Games to gather hard evidence regarding the impact the Games have on the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, injured and sick ex and still serving military personnel and their families and friends. The Inclusive Sport and Physical Activity Research Group teamed up with the Coaching and Performance Research Groups and Dr Gabriela Misca from the School of Psychology to bid for the tender to evaluate the 2023 Düsseldorf Games. After multiple rounds, the team effort was successful and our team of researchers have secured an excellent opportunity to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the connections between sport, Invictus Games and recovery.

The research will focus on the British team which for Düsseldorf Games will comprise of 59 competitors, 6 reserves, 11 lead coaches and a number of support staff, assistant coaches, ambassadors and medical personnel. More specifically, the project will centres on the Invictus Game and related recovery experiences of three key groups:

  • Competitors – exploring how the competitors’ mental health and wellbeing will have been impacted by their Invictus Games experience and how their identity will have been shaped;
  • Families – understanding how families are impacted by the competitors’ injury and their recovery journey; and how they support the recovery journey of the competitors;
  • Coaches – investigating how coaches are supported to facilitate the most valuable recovery environments possible and how they balance their roles supporting performance and aiding recovery.

As the evaluation’s timeframe goes beyond the Düsseldorf Games in September, the project will continue for a further 18 months to help understand the longer-term impact of involvement with the Invictus Games programme as a whole.

We are very excited to be part of the British Team’s Invictus Game preparation journey and to be leading this evaluation project to further explore the specifics of the complex relationship between sport, Invictus Games and wounded, injured and sick ex and still serving military personnel’s recovery. As the project progresses, we will share some preliminary insights, experiences and summaries of academic publications that will grow out of this study.

Should you like to find out more about the project, please get in touch with us via invictus@worc.ac.uk.

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