A Selection of Sports Available
There is a vareity of sports available to wheelchair users, we have provided more information about a few of them below. Just click on the title to find out more.
Wheelchair basketball is one of the most widely practiced wheelchair sports, and it's not hard to see why. First developed by American World War II veterans as part of their rehabilitation programme, the sport has now spread worldwide and is played in more than 80 countries.
Each team comprises of 12 players, with no more than 5 on court at any one time. Players are classified from 1 to 4.5 depending on their functional ability (1 being the most physically impaired and 4.5 being the most physically functional). The total on-court points for any team must not exceed 14 during play. This ensures equal opportunities for all levels of disability.
Each game consists of four 10-minute quarters. The rules of wheelchair basketball are fairly similar to the able-bodied game; the court is the same size, the basket is at the same height and the scoring system is the same. Players are required to move the ball around the court by either dribbling or passing, and are required to bounce the ball after every two pushes or be penalised for 'travelling'.
Please see the Great British Wheelchair Basketball Association's website, www.gbwba.org.uk/gbwba, for further information on the sport and opportunities in your area.
Find out how paralympian, Clare Strange, got involved in wheelchair basketball here
Before the development of wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball was the most commonly played team sport for wheelchair users. However, the physical requirement for players to to dribble and shoot the ball meant that highly impaired tetraplegic players were relegated to supporting roles. in 1976 a group of Canadian wheelchair athletes devised the game of wheelchair rugby in order to allow tetraplegic athletes with a wide range and level of physical impairments to play integral roles in a team game.
Wheelchair rugby is played in teams of 4. Once again, a classification system is used to grade a player's muscle strength and functionality. This ranges from 0.5 to 3.5, with a combined team's on-court points not exceeding 8 at any one point during play.
Each game consists of four 8-minute quarters, with points being scored for carrying the ball across the goal lineat the end of the opposing team's half. Goals are only awarded if two of the player's wheels cross the line whilst in possession of the ball.
Wheelchair rugby is a very active and physical sport, and injuries are common. For anyone who has watched a game, and witnessed 32 minutes of people smashing each other around a court, it is not hard to see why it was originally referred to as Murderball.
Find out more about how wheelchair rugby spurred on recovery for Steve Brown, paralympian.
Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Limited is the National Governing Body for wheelchair rugby in the UK. Please see their website, www.gbwr.org.uk, for further information on the sport.
Alternatively, please contact The Welsh Wheelchair Rugby Association, www.disability-sport-wales.org, for further information on wheelchair rugby in Wales.
Wheelchair users have competed in athletics ever since the first sporting competition, the International Wheelchair Games, was held for spinal cord injured British World War II veterans at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in 1948. The first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960 and were attended by 400 athletes representing 23 different countries. Since then paralympic athletics have progressed considerably with over 3,900 disabled athletes representing 146 countries at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.
There are a wide variety of disciplines available to athletes, ranging from wheelchair racing to the javelin and the pentathlon, a combination of track and field events. In order to promote fairness and equality, a classification system is used to grade athletes in accordance with their limb and muscle functionality. This system broadly ranks people as T51-T54 for wheelchair racers and F51-F58 for seated field event athletes, depending on their level of impairment.
Shelly Woods has had a fantastic career in wheelchair athletics. Find out how she reinvented herself, following SCI here
For further information on wheelchair athletics please contact the British Wheelchair Athletics Association, www.bwaa.co.uk.
For wheelchair racing enquiries, please contact the British Wheelchair Racing Association, www.bwra.co.uk
The concept of handcycling can be traced as far back as the 17th Century when a young paraplegic watchmaker, Stephen Farfler, built the first self-propelled wheelchair. His design used hand cranks attached to the front wheel to move the chair. Since then handcycling has become a popular pastime amongst wheelchair users, not only because it provides the freedom and independence to get outside on bikes and enjoy cycling in the same way as able-bodies cyclists do but also because it provides an excellent aerobic workout.
Handcycles are available in a variety of designs to suit the needs of the individual. Fork-steer handcycles are the most common type of handcycle available and can be adapted for both racing and recreational purposes.
There are also lean-steer handcycles, which requires the rider to lean into the bend in order to steer. These types of handcycles are more suited to people with higher level injuries and have lost a great deal of functionality in their hands and arms. There is, however, a longer learning curve with these types of handcyles and they are far less stable at high speeds.
Please contact HandcyclingUK (www.handcycling.org.uk), the National Governing Body for handcycling in the UK, if you would like further information on the sport.
Table tennis was one of the earliest sports to be incorporated into the rehabilitation of spinal cord injured patients as it improves concentration, reaction speed and hand-eye coordination. A Paralympic sport since 1960, table tennis is easily learnt by beginners, requires little space and is fairly inexpensive to play, making it a popular indoor game.
Table tennis is one sport where wheelchair players can actively compete against able-bodied players, making it a truly inclusive sport. Players are catagorised based on their level of disability, which promotes both fairness and equality.
Some wheelchair players will use a higher than normal chair in order to compensate for being seated when playing. This enables a better view of the table and better judgement to be employed when playing shots. For those people who have lost a great deal of function in their hands, a strap can be used to increase grip on and control over the bat.
If you are interested in taking up table tennis or want to become more involved in the sport, then please contact the British Table Tennis Association for People with Disabilities (BTTAD), www.bttad.co.uk.
Robert Davies, GB Table Tennis Team Player, turned his life around following SCI, find out how here