Press Release

24 May 2011


Father of Paralympics’ Work Continues at Stoke Mandeville

On 12th June 2011, a small group of motorcyclists will begin an epic 6,500-mile round trip from Moscow, Ayrshire, to Moscow, Russia, to raise money for The Poppa Guttmann Trust at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital.  The adventure begins on Sunday morning with an appearance at the Classic Motorcycle Show at Ayr Racecourse, following which the group will ride to over to Moscow, where a fun-filled “Family Day” has been planned to coincide with their official 6pm send-off.

On their south-bound leg from Scotland, the riders will stop at a number of well-known bike venues, culminating with a celebrity event motorcycling’s iconic Ace Cafe on London’s North Circular on 16th June.  From there they will be flagged off by former GP motorcycle road racing legend, Peter Williams.

Among other supporters from the world of MotoGP at the Ace Cafe event will be Phil Armes, himself a former patient at Stoke Mandeville, following his Ulster GP crash in 1995. Phil says, “If it wasn’t for Poppa Guttmann I wouldn’t be enjoying the quality of life I do today. His vision of rehabilitation, and especially the use of sport and creative activities, completely changed the long term outcome for spinal injured patients.”

Until Sir Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann opened the Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville in 1944, the average life expectancy for spinal injury victims was three months. No treatment existed and rehabilitation was unheard of.  Paralysed patients were considered hopeless cases and, left to vegetate, the majority quickly succumbed to sepsis or other infections and died.

The key to Poppa Guttmann’s approach was physical and mental fitness.  He utilised sport alongside traditional physiotherapy not only to build strength and coordination, but also to foster determination and self-respect.  Guttmann’s ideas quickly proliferated among other spinal injuries units.

On 28th July 1948, the opening day of the last London Olympics, Poppa Guttmann hosted the first Stoke Mandeville Games, involving 16 paralysed service men and women from around the country. The Games became an annual event and began to attract competitors from overseas. In 1960, Poppa Guttmann’s Stoke Mandeville Games were held in parallel with the Olympics in Rome, an event now recognised as the first Paralympic Games.

Poppa Guttmann’s radical methods are still benefitting patients today. 60 years to the day after Guttmann launched his first Stoke Mandeville Games, Lt. Col. Fred Hargreaves’ launched Battle Back, a UK military initiative using Adaptive Adventure Training and Sports Rehabilitation to help seriously wounded service personnel gain confidence and return to an active life.

Despite these remarkable achievements, Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s name is little known outside medical and Paralympic circles.

To coincide with the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, the Poppa Guttmann Trust aims to raise the profile of Poppa Guttmann and create awareness of his contribution to spinal injuries treatment and his involvement in the creation of the Games. Part of the work of the Trust will be the establishment of a therapeutic arts programme at the hospital named in Guttmann’s honour.


Contacts & Donations:

Contact: Jim Humphreys:, tel. 01189 342747.

For up to date information about the ride, to contact the riders, or to donate to the Poppa Guttmann Trust, please visit Donations can be made on-line at or direct to The Poppa Guttmann Trust, Hill Farm Cottage, Thame Road, Piddington, Oxfordshire, OX25 1QB

Notes to Editors

Of the the thousands of  motorcyclists seriously injured on UK roads each year, 11% are likely to suffer a life-changing spinal injury 1.

According to latest published figures, in 2009 there were over 28 million cars on UK roads, against approximately 1.3 million motorcycles. Although the number killed or seriously injured has fallen significantly over the last ten years, motorcyclists remain 7 times more vulnerable to accidents than car drivers 2.

The riders are extremely grateful for the Patronage of HRH Prince Michael of Kent, GCVO.


The Prince has long been a keen motorcyclist and competitive rally driver.  His interest in motorsports of all kinds is reflected in his Presidencies of the Motor Sports Association, and the Brooklands Trust, amongst others. Prince Michael has a strong family attachment to Russia through his grandmother, Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia, a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II. He first visited the country in 1992, after the fall of communism, and has been back many times since. In 2005, Prince Michael participated in The White Knights’ charity motorcycle ride, riding (mostly off-road) from Vladivostock to Khabarovsk.