In 1976, Brad Parks hit a tennis ball from his wheelchair and realized that a new sport was about to be formed. Wheelchair tennis, a game which provides a competitive edge for disabled athletes, can be played on any regular tennis court with no modifications to tennis rackets and balls. The game does require specialized wheelchairs.
Wheelchair tennis is endorsed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and has the same rules and regulations as able-bodied tennis with the exception that the ball is allowed to bounce twice before the return.
In 1992, the NEC international wheelchair tennis tour originated with 11 competitive tournaments. With growing popularity, the NEC is now hosting over 100 events throughout the world. The requirements for participants include having a medically diagnosed permanent disability that results in a loss of function of one or both lower limbs.
Although wheelchair basketball is primarily a sport played by those with disabilities, some countries allow able-bodied players to compete. Maintaining a 10-foof basketball hoop and standard court, wheelchair basketball abides by most of the major FIBA basketball scoring rules with the consideration for a wheelchair. “Traveling”, for example occurs when an athlete touches their wheels more than twice after obtaining possession of or dribbling the ball. A pass, bounce, or shot must take place before the wheels can be touched again. A classification point scale system (1 to 4.5) is used to evaluate the functional abilities of those players with disabilities who compete above a recreational level. In competitions were an able-bodied athlete is allowed to compete their classification would be a 5 and an athlete with the highest degree disability would be classified as 1.0.Competitions have a restriction to the number of points allowed on the court at one time and international regulations use a classification for their players. Although currently only athletes with a disability are allowed to competing internationally.
The sport of wheelchair rugby, which is considered a combination of basketball and rugby began in Canada in 1977. Wheelchair rugby is played on a basketball court with a softer ball such as a volley-ball. The sport has evolved world-wide and made its way into the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games with eight total teams.
Both men and women can participate in wheelchair rugby. The hard collisions during the game require constant maintenance for the wheelchairs. The games are divided into four eight minute periods. Each team has four players and eight substitutes. On each goal-line there are two cones eight meters apart from each other. Attacking players may only stay in the Key Area for 10 seconds, and only three players are allowed in the area on defense. The object of the game is to get the most points by crossing over the opposing goal line with two wheels and the ball.
Athletes are assessed on the balance of their upper body (torso), the handling of the ball, and the handling of their wheelchair. When competing in higher level games the players are rated from 0.5 to 3.5. The lowest degree of mobility would give you the highest grade.
A fast-paced and highly physical sport, Sledge Hockey is currently one of the most popular sports in the Paralympic Games and is played by athletes with physical disabilities in the lower part of the body. Ice sledge hockey, also referred to as Sled Hockey in the United States, was invented in the early 1960s in Stockholm, Sweden and follows the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with modifications.Even with the many Paralympic Games restrictions to the sledge such as weight and measurements the overall original design hasn’t had many changes throughout the years. Consisting of two skate blades attached to a metal frame, which allows the puck to pass beneath, the design also includes two poles with bike handles for sticks. Opposite to the curved end of the hockey stick is 6-8 picks which act as a grip on the ice allowing better propulsion and maneuverability. All ice sledge hockey equipment is required to follow the standard set forth by the IHEC (Ice Hockey Executive Committee).With the exception of modifications for the athlete and their sledges, all regular ice hockey league rules apply. Players’ benches and penalty box entranceways have been designed evenly with the ice as to allow easy access for the players without the need for assistance. In addition, to avoid damage to the sledge, the surface areas for both the players’ benches and penalty box have been made with smooth plastic or ice.
In the 1980’s, cyclists from the human powered vehicle movement took strides away from the typically leg powered bikes and toward an arm powered vehicle. The recreational sport known as handcycling was intended for able bodied individuals, but all individuals, disabled included, benefited from the new movement that launched a competitive and enjoyable sport for all people.
In 1998, Hand-cycling was approved as part of the IPC Cycling Program and was included in the World Cycling Championships for the disabled. In the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens , Greece , the men’s hand-cycling team participated for the first time in the history of the Paralympics. The positive response toward hand-cycling has spread worldwide, and now U.S. , Europe, and Australia all host large national races. As a result, thousands of individuals have purchased handcycles to participate in the recreational sport and to improve aerobic activity and overall health. he modern wheelchair community and new up-and-coming technology has enabled disabled athletes to operate premium handcycles with hi-pressure tires, light weight parts, hi-tech hydration systems, and top of the line steering systems. Handcycles are fit to the particular individual, although they are simple to use and easy to get in and out of compared to cutting edge adaptive wheelchairs.
Originally meant as a demonstration, amputee athletes introduced sitting volleyball to the Paralympic Games in 1976 in Toronto Canada. With a court measuring 30 x 18 feet and an attack line of 6 feet, sitting volleyball is played with a net about 3 feet high (1.15m for men and 1.05m for women) and governed by the World Organization Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD). The WOVD has adapted the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) rules for use in sitting volleyball.
As a team sport, sitting volleyball can be played by persons of any age, both disabled and able-bodied, in any combination. Front-row players are allowed to block the service of the opponent, but one “cheek” must remain in contact with the floor whenever making contact with the ball. Standing up, rising or taking steps is forbidden. A short loss of contact with the court is permitted, a short loss of contact with the court is permitted when making a defensive play (to save a ball) in the back zone or when making a defensive play (to save a ball) in the front zone, not being a block. In standing volleyball, a mix of disabilities must be represented on the court at all time to equalize the level of play. Wheelchair volleyball is now being developed in Europe, played on a court 7 x 14m, over a net about 1.75m in height.
Paralympic Alpine Skiing
As one of the more popular winter sports in the Paralympic Winter Games, Paralympic Alpine Skiing is governed by the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) under the FIS (International Ski Federation).
What was once limited to above-knee amputees, disabled skiers can now compete for medals in three categories: Sitting, Standing, and Visually Impaired. Each category is divided into three to seven classes and possibly subdivided into two to three sub-classes.
In an attempt to place the different degrees of disabled athletes on a level playing field, times are compared by a “factor system” by multiplying the time of each racer in a class or subclass by a fixed number resulting in what’s know as “adjusted time”. This “adjusted time” appears on a results list for disabled ski races.
Popular all over the world, wheelchair dancing is considered a social and recreational activity. Besides having fun and being social with others, a wheelchair dancer can benefit from enhanced respiratory control, flexibility, coordination, physical balance, and increased range of motion.
Wheelchair dancing started in Sweden in 1968, originally for recreation or rehabilitation, with the first competition held in 1975. The first international competition was also held in Sweden, in 1977. Several regional and international competitions followed and the first World Championship was held in Japan in 1998. Since 1998, Wheelchair Dance Sport is governed by the International Paralympic Wheelchair Dance Sport Committee (IPWDSC), although it is not part of the paralympic program. The sport incorporates the rules of theInternational Dance Sport Federation (IDSF).