James Pierre-Glaude: Expanding the Sport of Amputee Soccer

I recently sat down with James Pierre-Glaude, clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook’s School of Health Professions, who had just returned from Istanbul, Turkey, where the USA amputee soccer team qualified for and competed in the 2022 Amputee Soccer World Cup. Read on to learn about his experiences working on and off the field.

What was your role on the team? 

On the field, my responsibilities include preparing players for their matches, whether through warm-ups, stretching or treatment before and during the game. If any injuries occur, I’m usually the first one on the scene to evaluate whether they need any emergency care or if we can take care of it right there. I also make return-to-play decisions – who can return, who can’t. And then, at the end of the game, we’ll go through recovery, cool down, and ask, “Does this player need any treatment?” “Can they play in the next game?”

What was it like attending the 2022 Amputee World Soccer Cup and helping the team compete?

It’s always a great experience. This was the third one I’ve been to. What was different about this one is that the sport has grown. The resources available to the players are greater – the notoriety, exposure, marketing and competitiveness of the athletes have increased. When the sport first started, it was more of a rehabilitation sport. It was just an avenue for people with limb differences to remain active. Today that still exists, but when you get to this level, it’s elite athletes. For example, our captain can run a mile on crutches in seven minutes. Even though these are people living with different abilities, they’re just as committed and just as fit. You may even say they’re even more fit than someone that’s able-bodied because they’re moving around on crutches for an hour, something I can’t imagine doing. It was great watching all of the games, mingling with people from other countries, and listening to their stories about how their organizations run. And it was great just being in Istanbul.

Why did you get involved with soccer?

It’s something that sort of fell into my lap. It wasn’t anything that I was looking for. I wasn’t going out saying, “Hey, I’d like to work with the soccer team.” Prior to being a faculty member, I was an athletic trainer. I worked with numerous sports teams at different levels, including high school, global youth, college and semi-pro, so I had the experience of working with soccer players. But I had never worked with adaptive athletes before. That was not part of my experience as an athletic trainer. But as a physical therapist, I had experience working with amputees. Dr. Eric Lamberg, head coach for the soccer team, knew many athletic trainers who were knowledgeable about sports but didn’t necessarily have experience working with amputees. Physical therapists who work with amputees may not have prior experience working in the athletic realm. Since I’m both a physical therapist and an athletic trainer, he thought it was a perfect match. 

What were some standout moments?

I’ve spoken a lot about my role on the field, but Dr. Lamberg and I have also played major roles off the field. Dr. Lamberg is not only the coach but also the president of the American Amputee Soccer Association, of which I am a member of its Board of Directors as secretary and treasurer. We’ve played significant roles in fundraising, developing regional teams and logistics. It was great to see the hard work of the entire association represented and reflected on the field. It took a lot for us to move 30 people across the world, and get their flights, lodging, food, gear and uniforms covered. It was great that all of that work culminated in actually going there.

What’s the future of this sport?

It was codified in the United States in the 1980s. We were a little bit behind the eight-ball because a lot of the other nations took the sport and ran with it because soccer is important in their countries, versus the United States, where there are so many opportunities for people to remain active – even with a limb difference. I believe we’re using this momentum, or we hope to use this momentum, to start a league in the United States where we have teams in different regions that regularly practice and play competitive matches. That’s not only going to increase the sport’s exposure but it will allow people to see that there’s an avenue for them, even if they have a limb difference or an amputation, to remain active, to be part of a competitive atmosphere, and to feel a sense of belonging. 

What are some of your plans involving amputee soccer?

I’m hoping we can start a women’s team within the next year or so. We’re looking to organize an event to help find female players for our first women’s national soccer team. We also hope to start a youth development program that will introduce children to the sport at an early age. Unfortunately, many of our players discover us as adults or in their late teens. We would love to capture that audience and maybe even their parents because you never know who will become an amputee and when, so launching a youth development program is also high on our priority list

Read the story on Stony Brook University News

— Edited by Viyang Hao ‘26

*This post has been edited for clarity

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