Jim Roberts wrestles the rugby ball away from his opponents in their battered metal wheelchairs
Wheelchair Rugby

Wheelchair Rugby


Wheelchair Rugby is played indoors on a regulation-size basketball court by teams of four, using a white ball that is identical in size and shape to a volleyball.

Teams are mixed, with men and women competing equally in the same team.

Sport Details

The Rules

A match consists of four eight-minute quarters and the team scoring the greatest number of goals wins.

To score an athlete must cross the opposing team’s goal line in firm control of the ball. Two wheels must cross the goalline for a score to count.

Athletes must dribble or pass the ball every 10 seconds with failure to do so resulting in the referee handing possession of the ball to the opposing team.

Contact between wheelchairs is permitted and forms an integral part of the game. However, hitting an opponent’s chair behind the rear wheel results in penalisation, as does making physical contact with an opponent.

Players may lose possession of the ball, serve a one-minute penalty or be disqualified depending on the extent of the foul committed.

Wheelchair rugby athletes, because of the unique and varied nature of their muscle function, demonstrate combinations of varying stomach, back, chest, arm and leg movement in performing the wheelchair rugby skills of ball handling, such as passing, catching, carrying, and dribbling; and wheelchair skills that include pushing, starting, stopping, directional changes, tackling and blocking.

To determine an athlete’s class, (athletes are classified with a points system between 0.5 and 3.5) classifiers observe athletes as they perform a variety of these movements. Firstly, classifiers test athletes’ limbs for strength, flexibility, sensation, and muscle tone; and athletes’ trunks (abdominal and back muscles) for balance, ability to bend over and rise up and the ability to rotate to both sides (in combination with leg function, if present). The athlete is then observed performing both ball handling and wheelchair skills prior to game play and during game play, if necessary. In addition, the athlete’s execution of ball and wheelchair handling skills are observed on court during actual game play.

Athletes with the highest level of impairment are classified as 0.5 players. In general 0.5 and 1.0 players are blockers and do not handle the ball as much as higher class players. This is mostly because of a high level of impairment in their upper limbs which means these players may not easily pick up or pass the ball.

1.5 players are predominantly blockers but may occasionally handle the ball. 2.0 and 2.5 players are both ball handlers and, due to an increasingly high level of strength in their shoulders, can build up speed on court. This makes them good ‘playmakers’.

3.0 and 3.5 players have a high degree of strength and stability in the trunk and are therefore usually the fastest players on court. The higher functionality in their upper limbs means they can handle and pass the ball comparatively easily.

In international Wheelchair Rugby the total number of points of all four athletes playing on court at any one time cannot exceed 8.0 points unless there is a woman on the court, in which case the team are allowed an extra 0.5. A team may play with a line-up that totals less than this, but not more.

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