Wheelchair rugby was originally designed for athletes with tetraplegia, which is paralysis of both the arms and legs. Today, the team sport also includes players with other impairments that cause limited arm and leg function.
Athletes with an eligible impairment are allocated a sport class based on their abilities in performing the skills of ball handling, such as passing, catching, carrying and dribbling; and wheelchair skills including pushing, starting, stopping, directional changes, tackling and blocking.
There are seven different sport classes: 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5. The most significant activity limitation is described in the 0.5 sport class profile.
Sport class 0.5
Players have significantly limited function in their shoulder, arms and hands, for example due to tetraplegia. The player would typically catch the ball by tapping it into their lap and throwing the ball with a scoop pass. Their main role on the court is as a blocker.
Sport class 1.5
A player has fair arm function, which makes him or her an excellent blocker. A 1.5 player will also handle the ball on occasion, but typically they show some instability in the wrist, which leads to limited ball security. Some athletes also have asymmetrical arm function, so that they mainly handle the ball with their strong arm only.
Sport class 2.5
Players in this sport class have good shoulder stability and arm function. They might have some trunk control. Due to their ability to flex their fingers, they can perform overhead passes, catch the ball with two hands and maneuver the wheelchair effectively. In the team they are ball handlers and fairly fast playmakers.
Sport class 3.5
A 3.5 player has good arm and hand function, which makes him or her a major ball handler in the team. They have some trunk function, which helps them rapidly accelerate the wheelchair. They will typically have a high and upright sitting position. Also, an athlete with above knee amputations of both legs and with a loss of fingers and hand surface on both sides may play in this sport class. You will see 3.5 players perform controlled one-handed, long-distance passes.
Teams are comprised of four players, and the total number of classification points on the court for a team may not exceed eight. This way the impact of the impairment on the game is balanced between the two teams.
Eligible impairments in wheelchair rugby
Impaired muscle power
Impaired passive range of movement
IPC classification webpage: https://www.paralympic.org/classification
IWRF classification webpage: http://www.iwrf.com/?page=classification
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