Spotlight Sport: Wheelchair Rugby

Wheelchair Rugby is not a game for the faint-hearted! Played indoors on a basketball court by teams of four, the players use a white ball that is identical in size and shape to a volleyball to score goals. A unique sport that combines aspects of rugby, basketball and handball, teams are mixed, with men and women competing side-by-side.

A match consists of four eight-minute quarters, in which athletes must cross the opposing teams’ goal with firm control of the ball to score. The players are required to either pass or dribble the ball every ten seconds, which makes for some very fast changes of possession! Contact between wheelchairs is not only permitted, but is in fact a crucial part of the game, as athletes try to block and hold their opponents from scoring. The team who ends the game with the greatest number of goals wins!

Each Wheelchair Rugby player has a different classification based on their muscle function and strength: this can be between 0.5 and 3.5 points. While there are 12 players in a Wheelchair Rugby team, only four can appear on court at any one time. The total classification points of all four players on court must be eight points or less when added together.

Facts about Wheelchair Rugby

  • Wheelchair Rugby was invented in 1977 by a group of Canadian quadriplegic athletes. They were looking for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball that would allow players with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally.
  • Wheelchair Rugby was originally known as ‘murderball’ due to its aggressive, full contact nature.
  • An elite Wheelchair Rugby player may have to replace their wheelchair approximately every 18 months due to the damage it suffers from playing the sport.

Athlete Q&A:

How did you get into wheelchair rugby?
I began playing in 1998 after trying the sport out at a taster day at Stanmore RNOH Spinal Injury Unit. I’d heard about the sport whilst undertaking rehabilitation following my injury in 1997.

Why should people try wheelchair rugby?
It’s a huge amount of fun as well as a great way to keep fit and enjoy some good competition. The sport has a fantastic community and there’s the option to play at whatever level you aspire to, from pure recreation all the way up to International/Paralympic standard.

*What is your first memory of the Paralympic Games? *
Watching my teammates pushing out in front of 110,000 people at Stadium Australia for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Paralympic Games (from my TV back in the UK) and thinking… I’m not going to miss another one of those!

Why should young people take part in the Road to Rio challenge?
So many reasons… Here are just three:

  1. It’s a brilliant way to get fit and have fun doing it!
  2. It’s a great way to share the experience that GB’s Olympians and Paralympians are going through as they make their journey to Rio.
  3. Being part of a team that achieves a huge goal is an awesome feeling!

Try Wheelchair Rugby this month to get an exclusive badge!