Wheelchair rugby is a mixed-team sport played by male and female athletes with some degree of paralysis in all four limbs. An alternative to wheelchair basketball, it allows players with this kind of disability to participate on equal terms. The sport is played in specifically designed manual wheelchairs by a team of four players and combines elements of rugby, basketball and handball. That’s why wheelchair rugby is played with a round ball, not an oval ball!
First developed in Canada in the 1970s, wheelchair rugby made its debut as a medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. Wheelchair rugby is often also called “Murderball” because it is such an aggressive sport, in which noisy contact, frequently punctured tyres and even wheelchairs flipping over form an integral part of the sport.
Brief overview of the rules
Matches are split into four eight-minute quarters. Wheelchair rugby is played using a modified volleyball on a 28m x 15m court divided into two halves with a centre circle and a try line at each end. The aim of the game is to carry the ball over the opponent’s try line, and stop them from doing the same at the other end.
It’s a high-impact sport, which is why the wheelchairs have a solid frame, an anti-tip device at the rear and a double bumper. Players aren’t allowed to grab an opponent with their hands, and excessive contact could cause injury, which leads to sanctions.
The rules of wheelchair rugby were inspired by rugby, basketball and hockey. The player in possession must dribble at least once or the ball must be passed at least every 10 seconds. Unlike in the able-bodied game, forward passes are allowed. Players can progress towards to opponent’s goal by throwing, rolling, dribbling or carrying the ball on their knees. From when they gain possession, a team has just 40 seconds to score a try. Like in wheelchair basketball, every player is assigned a point value based on their functional ability, from 0.5 for a player with the least physical function through to 3.5 for the most physical function. The total on-court value for each team of 4 four cannot exceed 8 eight points.
Quadriplegia or equivalent.
International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF): www.iwrf.com
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