Ludwig Guttmann's regime was not merely medical and surgical but also rehabilitative. The Physiotherapy department rather than Occupational Therapy were responsible for all the sports rehabilitation which was quite unusual at the time. Read the stories from the patients and therapists at the National Spinal Injuries Centre below.

Physiotherapist Dot Tussler

Video still of Dot Tussler, Physiotherapist at Stoke Mandeville

Dot Tussler started at Stoke Mandeville in 1982 and is now one of the longest-serving physiotherapists working at the hospital. Read more of Dot's memoirs.

Patient Jane Blackburn

Jane Blackburn, Paralympian

Patient Jane Blackburn describes the Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy that took place at Stoke Mandeville in the 1960s. Read more of Jane's interview.

Patient George Brogan

Patient learning to walk using the support of wooden beams

Image ©NSIC

They put full callipers on me and then I had to lift myself up on to these bars, just like the lad in the photo; once you mastered that you were given crutches, and then the fun began.

Read more about George Brogan.

Guttmann's rehabilitative regime

Physiotherapist helping patients develop more muscles and strength in their legs

Guttmann's new regime would not merely be medical and surgical; it would also be rehabilitative. As he himself said, the main aim was to get patients back into life outside the wards. Read more about Guttmann's rehabilitative regime.

Happier times on the wards

Dr. Guttmann on the wards at Stoke Mandeville at Christmas.

©Ida Bromley

In the early years at Stoke Mandeville the moment that a patient was first able to sit up in a wheelchair was recognised as a key milestone. It was an event to be celebrated with a party. Read more about life on the wards.

Early sports at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Experimenting with wheelchair polo in the 1940s

Image ©NSIC

They got in wheelchairs, and they had shortened sticks, and a disk for the puck, and they went up and down an empty ward hitting this puck. It was played against the physiotherapists, and later against the local football clubs.

Read more about the early sports.

Patients and their Physiotherapists

A wheelchair patient having physiotherapy

Image ©Dot Tussler

The relationship you had with your physio was very special. You saw them twice a day; and they were so much better at explaining things.

Read more about the relationship between patients and physiotherapists.

Occupational Therapy

A patient making a basket in occupational therapy

I think Guttmann’s model at Stoke Mandeville where the physiotherapy department – rather than the OT – was responsible for all the sports rehabilitation was quite unusual at the time.

Read more about Occupational Therapy at the National Spinal Injuries Centre.

Sport as rehabilitation

Physiotherapy in the pool at Stoke Mandeville in 1956

Image ©NSIC

What made the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville truly distinctive was the introduction by Guttmann of sport as a means of rehabilitation. Read more about sport as rehabilitation

The gym used for Physiotherapy

Gym at Stoke Mandeville in 1970

Image ©Dot Tussler

Today individual Physios assess the risks of ‘therapeutic handling’ but many staff at Stoke Mandeville still do far more manual handling of patients than in other branches of physiotherapy.

Read more about the Gym at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

The Halfway House

Ludwig Guttmann and Lady Hamilton Smith at the opening of the Rehabilitation Hostel at Stoke Mandeville in 1970

Image ©Mary Brennan

I remember there was one tetraplegic patient there who was writing a book; and in his room there was this elaborate piece of equipment that allowed him to type using his mouth as he had no movement below his neck.

Read more about the Halfway House