Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchairs have been used pretty much since the beginning of time, but until the 1900′s, they really didn’t resemble the wheelchairs of today. By the 1930′s, there were several steel tubed wheelchairs available that closely resemble the type of chair you see today. It was also around this time that wheelchairs sports first became popular.

The late 1930′s until the mid 1940′s, were a very violent time. Many millions of people lost their lives during World War II, but there were also a lot of medical advances, such as the use of penicillin to fight infection. Due to these advances, there was an increased number of soldiers who survived serious injuries, but were left disabled. It was this influx of disabled veterans that would lead to the development of wheelchair sports.

One of the first wheelchair sports to be played was wheelchair basketball. The first recorded game between veterans took place in 1946, but it is usually attributed, at least in part, to a German neurologist named Ludwig Guttmann. Guttmann fled Germany during the beginning of the Second World War. After the war, he founded the National Spinal Injuries Centre, which was located near London in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He firmly believed that sports were an integral part of rehabilitation and would go on to found the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, which were the predecessor to the Paralympics.

After that first game of wheelchair basketball in 1946, the popularity would quickly spread among veterans and others who used wheelchairs. It became a part of the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games in 1956 and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation was founded in 1973. Today it is played by thousands in countries all over the World.

The Basics

Wheelchair basketball is played on a regulation basketball court and the rules are based off of the official NCAA rules, with some changes to address the needs of those in wheelchairs.

Generally in order to play, the individual must be affected by some sort of leg disability or paralysis that affects the lower part of their body, but there are some teams that have able bodied players on them. To achieve a balance, each player is ranked according to their abilities. The players are classified by their disability, for instance a player with complete motor loss would be classified as a Class I player. There is a set amount of points attached to each classification and the total point value of a teams active players can not be greater than 12. This is designed to create a team balance.

The wheelchair used to play wheelchair basketball must also meet several requirements. The height of the seat should not be greater than 21” and the foot rest should not be higher than 5”. A seat cushion is permitted for each player, but it can not exceed 2” to 4” depending on the players classification. The wheelchairs are usually outfitted with anti-tip bars and other protective tools

General contact rules apply, such as charging and blocking, and the wheelchair is considered part of the players body. Players in possession of the ball may push their wheels to advance, but they can not push more than twice without either dribbling or passing the ball. Pushing more than twice is considered traveling.

A player will loose possession of the ball if they make any contact with the floor. This includes if the wheelchair tips back far enough that the anti-tip wheels make contact with the floor. Generally if a player falls from their chair, the referees will not stop the game unless there is a danger to the player.