Disability Sports: Have You Tried Wheelchair Basketball?

Many people often assume that because you are disabled you have no right to play sport but tell that to the paralympics and the extremely successful Special Olympics. Disabled sports, also called as adaptive sports or para sports are the sports which are played by physically and intellectually disabled persons. These sports are modified to meet the needs of disabled person, hence the name adapted sports. However, not all disabled sports are adapted, some sports are uniquely invented and have no equivalent in non-disabled sports. One of the most common disabled sports is wheelchair basketball. It is one of the most widely played sports by disabled people around the world.

Organization Of Sports For People With Disability.

The sports for athletes with a disability is usually categorised into three groups: The hearing impaired, physically disabled, and intellectually disabled, with each group having a unique organization, competition program, and approach to sport. The various international sport organizations for deaf have evolved into the modern Deaflympics, which governed by the CISS. Organizations for the physically disabled are held  in the form of modern Paralympic Games which include the people with  limb amputation and visual impairment. Individuals with cerebral palsy were allowed to participate in the competition from 1980. The Paralympic Sport is governed by the International Paralympic Committee.

Basketball In Wheelchairs

Wheelchair basketball is played by thousands of disabled people across the world. It is played by people with various physical disabilities which initially disqualified them from playing the able-bodied sports. These disabilities include birth defects, cerebral palsy, paralysis due to accident, amputations, spina bifida and many more. This sport is governed by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) and is recognized by the International Paralympic Committee as a disability sport.

The IWBF has 82 National Organizations for Wheelchair Basketball, each participating in wheelchair basketball actively all around the year. As per the IWBF’s statistics, over 100,000 people across the world enjoy this popular disabled sport. Also, the Wheelchair Basketball World Championship is played 2 years after every Paralympic Games. Some of these players simply enjoy it for recreational purposes while others play professionally and even represent their country at international levels. Whether you are a man or a woman or even a child, you can play wheelchair basketball too.

It must however be noted that wheelchair basketball is not just a casual sport and is in fact a very competitive disabled sport and as a result, it is not surprising that it is one of the most popular disability sports at the quarter-annual Paralympic Games.  Participants from several countries participate in the Paralympic Games, some of the most common including USA, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Japan. The winning country receives the Gold Cup for Wheelchair Basketball.

Basketball In Wheelchairs: Other Details

Wheelchair basketball first started being played in the 1940s through a rehabilitation program at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, England. It has since developed and grown into an international well known disability sport. While it was initially known as Wheelchair Netball, it finally developed into what is today known as Wheelchair Basketball.

In addition to the Paralympics, players of wheelchair basketball also compete in several other events. One of the most important competitions for his disabled sport is the Wheelchair Basketball World Championship (WBWC).  It started in 1973 and was first played in Bruges, Belgium and the championships were won by the team from Great Britain.  The next WBWC is due to be held in 2010 and will be hosted by Birmingham, England.

The Wheelchair Design

The wheelchairs used for playing basketball are designed for enhanced stability. It’s centre of gravity is located where the chair and the player’s mass are equally distributed in all the directions. Because a wheelchair with a higher seat, is easier to tip, the basketball chairs have lower seats and wheels are angled outwards to maintain the balance and stability. The forwards and centres players are typically under the net, thus their chairs are provided with highest seats in order to facilitate less mobility. Also, the increased height increases the players reach to aim for the shoot at the hoop. The guards use wheelchairs different from the centres and forward players. Thus, the guards have lower seats and a greater stability in order to handle the ball and get down on the court as quickly as possible.

Height of the seat must not exceed 21 inches from the floor. The height of the foot platform must be no more than 47 / 8 inches from the floor. A medium weight foam rubber is permitted as a cushion, for medical and therapeutic reasons. The height of the foam must be maximum 2 inches for class III players and 4 inches for all other players. Also, each and every chair must be equipped with a roll bar to ensure against the damage to the playing surface.

Wheelchairs Basketball World Championship

The wheelchair basketball world championships have been held since 1973 with Belgium being the first host city. There are currently 8 divisions in the wheelchair basketball within the United States.

  1. Junior Prep Division:  It is for children aged 13 years and younger. The basket is lowered to 8.5 feet for this division.
  2. Junior Varsity: It is for children between 13 to 18 years of age and they must be enrolled in the school. There is no specific alteration done to the court for this division
  3. Division III:  This division is for the adult teams, which allows the newer players and lesser developed teams to play at a developmental or recreational level. If they compete, they have the opportunity to go to division II.
  4. Division II:  It comprises of the adult teams, which includes experienced and more developed players to play mid level competition.
  5. Division I:  It is for the adult teams to play at an elite level with experienced individuals at the highest level of competition.

Rules Of The Wheelchairs Basketball

The wheelchair basketball is played according to the NCAA rules, with a very few exceptions.

  • The wheelchair basketball maintains a 10 foot basketball hoop and standard basketball court and retains most of the major rules. However, there are some expect exceptions like “travelling in wheelchair basketball” occurs, if the athlete touches their wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball. It is thus mandatory for the player to pass, bounce or shoot the ball before touching the wheels again.
  • All the teams which compete above the recreational level use the classification system in order to evaluate the functional abilities of its players on the point scale of 1 to 4.5. A player with minimum disability is classified as a 4.5 and the player with the highest degree of disability would be classified as 1.0 which includes a paraplegic with the complete injury below the chest.
  • Also, the competition restricts the number of points allowable on the court at a time. The five players from each team during the play cannot exceed a total of 14 points.
  • The wheelchair is considered to be a part of the body of the player. Therefore general rules of contact in regular basketball including the charging and blocking also apply to the wheelchair basketball.
  • The player is considered to be out of bounds when any part of the player’s wheelchair or his body, touches the floor on the boundary or outside the boundary.
  • If the player falls out of the chair during the play, it is immediately suspended if there is a chance of danger to the fallen player. However, if a player falls out of the chair in order to gain possession of the ball, the ball is awarded to the opposite team.

Wheelchair basketball is the fast moving team sport, which mandates high demand from both the players and equipment. It is one of the most established types of wheelchair Sports, so if you can’t play standing up come sit down.

1 Comment

  1. Wheelchair Rugby is another great game. I think Americans call it quad rugby. It can be pretty brutal too. (I think maybe thats why it was originally called ‘Murderball’)! Our national team are called the Wheel blacks. This is a play on the name of our ‘other’ international rugby team the All Blacks. It’s a great spectator sport too!

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