Wheelchair rugby has gone from being a chaotic sport they once called murderball to having full Paralympic status.
Wheelchair rugby is unique to the Paralympic Games. It was invented in the 1970’s in Winnipeg, Canada by persons who had become quadriplegics as a result of spinal cord injury to the neck. It is believed to be the fastest growing wheelchair sport in the world. After being a demonstration event in 1996 at the Paralympics in Atlanta, wheelchair rugby became a full medal sport in 2000 during the Sydney Paralympic Games.
Wheelchair rugby is played by athletes who are quadriplegics (limited or no function in four limbs; or limited or no function in 3 of 4 limbs and trunk). As such, wheelchair rugby could include athletes whose disability is the result of a spinal cord injury, polio, cerebral palsy, a progressive disease such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, etc.
Wheelchair rugby is an indoor team game played by two (2) teams of four (4) players each (male or female). All players must play the game in a manual wheelchair and be classified according to the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) classification rules. The purpose of the game is for players to score goals by touching or crossing the opponent’s goal line while maintaining possession of the ball. Using a volleyball, players carry, dribble or pass the ball while moving toward the opponents goal area. The player in possession of the ball must dribble or pass at least once every ten seconds. A goal is scored when a player in control of the ball touches the goal line with two wheels. The team with the greatest point total upon completion of the game is declared the winner. A game is comprised of four eight minute quarters, stop time. The playing court has the same dimensions as a regulation basketball court; however, only the side, end and centre lines and the centre circle need appear.
In order to qualify to play wheelchair rugby, athletes must be deemed eligible according to the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) classification system. There are 7 classifications in wheelchair rugby: .5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5. Athletes are assigned points (classification) based on their ability to perform tasks or skills associated with the game of rugby. The more points an athlete accumulates, the greater his/her ability. During a game the total point scores of the players on the court cannot exceed 8 points and this must include 4 players. In order to determine an athlete’s classification, classifiers observe athletes as they perform a variety of different movements. Examples of the type of movements athletes can be asked to perform include: ball handling, catching, passing, dribbling and wheelchair manoeuvres such as starting, stopping and directional changes. In addition, the athlete may be observed during a game. Classifiers test an athletes’ limbs for muscle strength, tone, range of motion, sensation; and athletes’ trunks for balance, ability to bend over and straighten up and rotate. An athlete’s ability to perform the required movements will determine his/her classification (or point score). The higher the point score the more ability the athlete has in performing the required movements or skills. Classification Type In addition to being assigned a point score (or class), athletes are also given a “classification type” as follows: Temporary (T) Athlete was not classified according to regulations (i.e., classifiers not properly qualified, not examined by the required number of classifiers, etc.) and so he/she must be classified again. Review (R) Classifiers would like to observe an athlete during a game situation. Classifiers might be uncertain of the athlete’s class not having seen him/her in competition or classifiers may suspect the athlete is not performing the skills as well as he/she is capable in order to obtain a lower point score / classification. In these cases, classifiers will observe the athlete during a game since under these conditions athletes will perform at their optimum. New Injury (N) Athlete’s disability is progressive (example, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis) or he/she is a new player and therefore, according to classification rules, must be re-classified in 1 year. International Class (I) Athlete has been seen at specifically identified tournaments including Paralympic Games and World Championships and there is no question about the athletes classification. An athlete with a International Class must be re-examined every three years eventually becoming an Permanent Class. Permanent Class (P) The athlete’s classification has remained unchanged after 6 years and after undergoing 3 examinations. They are now permanently classified.