Dr. Caibre McCann: A pioneer passes away


The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) has celebrated the work and contributions of physician Dr. Caibre McCann who passed away in early 2021 at the age of 92.

McCann became heavily involved in wheelchair sports in 1961 following the polio outbreak in the USA. That year he became the Medical Director at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Centre for Children where he worked with his wife Eithne. In 1969, McCann chaired the Department of Rehabilitation at Rhode Island Hospital, helping found a state wheelchair sports organisation and with the support of his family, set up training sessions in a field behind their home.

Dr. Caibre McCann

McCann’s involvement in disability and sports extended internationally. He worked with IWAS predecessor the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF) as Chair of the Sport Science and Medicine Committee from 1981 – 1987. From here he pioneered the first classification system for athletes with physical impairments.

Several IWAS Executive Board members remember McCann from their own careers or involvement with the ISMWSF, having been classified by him or involved with the development of classification.

Very early in his career, McCann strongly believed that fair competitions among Para athletes should be based upon the anatomy of their neurologic lesion, and so he created a novel international classification system. He wrote The Physician’s Guide to Classification and even served as the team physician for US wheelchair athletes. He explained the benefits of sports for people with a disability, and his work was cited in the US Rehabilitation Act of 1972 that has become a lasting legacy in the USA for veterans and people with disabilities.