Athletic tracks for para-athletes: which surfaces reduce the risk of injury and improve performance?

What are the design choices that should be made for adaptative sport facilities?

“MONDO track surfaces are ideal for wheelchair racers because they have a high level of energy return into the push equating to less wasted energy and sinking into the track, thus minimizing the fight against drag. The athletes are able to cruise at an easier rate. MONDO’s track surfaces are much more consistent than any other surface, no matter the weather. The track offers less resistance and more energy return which causes less repetitive strain injuries on the shoulders, elbows and wrists.” Bruce Pirnie, Athletics Canada 2008 Paralympic Games Track&Field team Head Coach

2020 is expected to be a significant year for international sport: the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics (24 July - 9 August) will shed light on the need to build advanced facilities that permit tearing down architectural and cultural barriers, promoting the inclusion and integration of disabled persons in society.

Adaptative sports facilities: surfaces and design solutions for all athletes

Building or adapting an existing sports facility that can be used by all athletes requires special attention both to the choice of design solutions as well as the selection of materials.

This first starts with the accessibility of the track, where entrance and exit points for the athletes must be free of architectural barriers and positioned suitably so athletes can easily reach the starting areas for racing and the throwing events.

For the long jump, the takeoff board must not be more than two meters from the landing area, and the runway must have space on each side at the same level of the track to avoid creating physical dangers for visually impaired athletes if they deviate from the runway.

The circles for discus and hammer throwing should not be partially positioned on the turf, so they permit easy access for wheelchair athletes, and they must have holes for inserting the screws and rings necessary for anchoring the throwing seats or small pits that can be closed with cross-ties to which the anchoring belt can be hooked.

But which surface should be selected that allows all athletes to train and compete under the best conditions?

MONDO prefabricated tracks: uniform surfaces for Paralympic competition facilities

To satisfy the sporting needs of athletes competing in wheelchairs, the surface of the track must offer a uniform grip even in rain to consistently guarantee the best smoothness for the racing wheelchairs.

The uniformity of the track and the absence of loose granules also ensure the athletic tracks don’t have the roughness of synthetic turf and ground unevenness, which could cause problems for para-athletes.

Therefore, finding the correct combination of materials for creating the tracks is a fundamental aspect for giving the surface the properties that can provide the athletes the needed performance and safety.

In its labs, MONDO has conducted research to develop surfaces with the suitable level of grip and slipperiness without losing abrasion resistance. Furthermore, it has developed a track surface hardness that can withstand shoes with spikes as well as prosthetics, but that’s not too hard to cause cuts and abrasions in the case of falls.

In parallel, the polymeric mixture of the MONDO track was designed so that its elastic properties remain constant over time and in multiple temperatures.

The properties that were obtained are useful for all athletes. They have, however, different applications for wheelchair athletes who cannot rely on the grip offered by spiked shoes but are based upon the interaction between the track and the tires.

With prefabricated MONDO tracks, the track’s rubber mixture is very similar to the rubber mixtures used for producing wheelchair tires. This guarantees maximum efficiency when transferring the force to the surface via the linear movements and an excellent hold when rotating without increasing the force necessary to perform the rotations.

With a MONDO track in an adaptative facility, all athletes will find the perfect conditions for training and competing at their best.