For amputee veterans, N.J. golf tournament a vital part of physical therapy

    A group of veterans who lost limbs while serving in the military played nine holes of golf in a New Jersey tournament on Thursday. The Philadelphia VA Medical Center organized the tournament as part of a program for disabled veterans at Pitman Golf Course. For many of them, golf has been an important part of their rehabilitation.

    “If you can get someone to hit a golf ball, with a disability, a little light goes off in their head and says, ‘Well, if I can hit a golf ball, what else can I do?'” said Louis Namm, a veteran who lost both of his legs in Vietnam.

    Today, Namm is a certified golf instructor, and he teaches golf to other vets who have lost limbs.

    Namm added that golf continues to pose fresh challenges for him. He recently got new prosthetic legs with  better knee joints.

    “At one time, it was impossible for me to rotate my body toward the target,” said Namm. “Now with this new knee, I should be able to do that. I am going to teach my body how to do that.”

    The allure of sports were a major motivating factor for Veteran Marine Chris Nowak, who is a below-the-knee amputee.

    “After my injury I was looking for activities that I could do, that I thought would be easy, unfortunately, golf is not an easy game. I’m learning that the hard way,” Nowak said.

    Nowak founded the Next Step golf clinic, a free program that pairs veterans with golf pros teaching them the basics and offering then tips for improving their game.   

    “To me, sports is the greatest form of rehab, because it gives you the opportunity to forget about your injury,” Nowak said. “It gives you the opportunity to be around other individuals, with disabilities, without disabilities, and that’s the great thing about golf — you can compete, disability or not.”

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