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Wheelchair Sports: News, Events, Rules and Information

  • Revised/Updated: 2019/08/10
  • Synopsis : Sports played in wheelchairs are games played by persons with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, wheelchair sport is also called adapted sports.

Wheelchair sports pertains to sporting activities where participants use wheelchairs - either manual or power.

There are a number of sports that have been adapted to be played by people in wheelchairs.


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Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn't mean you can't enjoy the competitiveness and just all around fun that playing sports offers you. There are a wide range of sports that have been adapted to be played by people with varying types of disability, as well as several that are unique to disabled sports.

Sport plays a vital role in the rehabilitation of those with disabilities and can often be a catalyst for increased confidence and self esteem. More and more wheelchair users are playing sports every day - some even on a professional level.

Today, there are a large number of wheelchair sports associations and gaming opportunities for your wheelchair and you - all you have to do is educate yourself regarding playing the game safely, rules, and find out what options you have in choosing a suitable wheelchair sport.

There are many types of wheelchair sports, among them are racing, basketball, tennis, table tennis, badminton, bowling, hockey, football, and baseball. Some of them are played in manual wheelchairs, while others in electric wheelchairs.

Naval Base Ventura County, Calif. Navy Wounded Warriors learn how to cycle safely during their track training session at the adaptive athletics camp on Naval Base Ventura County. U.S. Navy photo by Shannon Leonard.
Naval Base Ventura County, Calif. Navy Wounded Warriors learn how to cycle safely during their track training session at the adaptive athletics camp on Naval Base Ventura County. U.S. Navy photo by Shannon Leonard.

Wheelchairs used for sport have evolved to suit the specific needs of that sport. They are usually non-folding (to increase rigidity), with negative camber for the wheels - which provides stability and is helpful for making sharp turns - and often are made of composite, lightweight materials.

To assist in sport playing in wheelchairs, accessories are available including belts and harnesses, gloves, bags for carrying items, drink holders and specialty back supports.

In the U.S. Disabled Sports USA supports sports sampling and encourages athletes to participate in a multiple sports until at least 12 years of age.

Trying multiple sports gives more options to find the sports you enjoy and be an athlete for life.

To learn more about the benefits of sports sampling, visit The Aspen Institute Project Play at: https://www.disabledsportsusa.org/sports/adaptive-sports/

Wheelchair Sports List
Wheelchair basketball - A form of basketball usually played by the physically impaired. Participants play on specially designed wheelchairs, built specifically for the sport.
Wheelchair Curling - Wheelchair curling is an adaptation of curling for athletes with disability governed by the World Curling Federation and is one of the sports in the Winter Paralympic Games.
Wheelchair Racing - Wheelchair racing is the racing of wheelchairs in track and road races. Wheelchair racing is open to athletes with any qualifying type of disability, amputees, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and partially sighted (when combined with another disability). Athletes are classified in accordance with the nature and severity of their disability or combinations of disabilities.
Wheelchair Rugby - Wheelchair rugby is a team sport for athletes with a disability. Developed in Canada in the late 1970s, it is currently practiced in over twenty countries around the world and is a Paralympic sport.
Wheelchair Tennis - Wheelchair tennis is one of the forms of tennis adapted for those who have disabilities in their lower bodies. The size of courts, balls, and rackets are same, but there are two major differences from pedestrian tennis; athletes use specially designed wheelchairs.
Wheelchair Dance - Wheelchair dancing is a sport that continues to grow in popularity around the world. Wheelchair dance is considered an IPC Championships Sport, but it is not currently a part of the Paralympic Games program.
Wheelchair Fencing - Wheelchair fencing is a version of fencing for athletes with a disability. Wheelchair fencing is governed by the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation that is a federation of the International Paralympic Committee, and is one of the sports in the Summer Paralympic Games.
Power Hockey - Power hockey is a competitive, fast-paced hockey game based on the use of an electric powered wheelchair. Its modified ice hockey rules enable disabled people that use an electric wheelchair to play hockey and to be active in a competitive team setting. The sport is also called electric wheelchair hockey and electric wheelchair floorball.
Wheelchair Netball - Wheelchair netball is a variation of netball adapted for play in wheelchairs. Modern versions of wheelchair netball are similar to standard netball, but with modified rules regarding contact, obstruction and travelling.
Wheelchair Soccer - A variation of association football, in which all of the participants are wheelchairs users due to physical disability. Intellectual disabilities can also be a factor, but this is not always the case. The wheelchairs can be either motorized, or manually pushed.

For those with disabilities, there are many adaptive sports and recreation programs that can be enjoyed for health, wellness, leisure, social, and competition benefits. You don't have to be an international sports superstar to gain benefits from participating in wheelchair sports. When you learn how to be successful in a sport, even if it is only recreational, you are also able to create success at work and at home.

Before participating in recreational activities or sports, check with your physical therapist or physician to be sure that you are healthy enough for exercise, and what amounts of physical activity are safe for you.


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