Adaptive Sports: Wheelchair Basketball

June 19, 2012

Wheelchair basketball is one of the most iconic sports for the disabled in the world. When people mention events such as the paralympics or handicapped sports, wheelchair basketball is very likely one of the first things they think of. First played by injured soldiers after World War II, wheelchair basketball has changed in many ways over the years. Yet at its essence, the sport remains very much the same — a way for people who require a wheelchair for mobility to get around and have fun with the sport.

The surest sign that a sport is becoming an accepted norm is the development of specific equipment for the sport. Participants in wheelchair basketball often start out in their standard wheelchair and do just fine, but this is only the beginning of their options. Now a number of wheelchair manufacturers produce sport-specific wheelchairs that athletes can use to get around the court. An athlete can choose to have a specially fitted, entirely custom chair made just for his or her specifications, or pick from a series of pre-made chairs and tweak the existing designs until they are content with their performance.

However, the most adaptive element of wheelchair basketball is the classification system. Players are given a performance rating based on their overall level of functionality — a paraplegic with full use of her upper body will be rated higher than someone with difficulty controlling his arms. The rankings, from 4 to 1, are totaled up before each match; no team is allowed more than 15 points on the field at a time. This allows for a variety of combinations, meaning that athletes of all functionality levels will have a chance to play, and play on a winning team at that.

Adaptive basketball is iconic for a reason. It is just as demanding as the original sport of basketball is; athletes must be in great physical condition; it sometimes gets pretty rough for a non-contact sport; and it is exciting for both the fans and the participants on the court.

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