There are dozens of wheelchair sports in which people can participate today: power soccer, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis are a few. But the absolute best is wheelchair rugby (though I might be just slightly biased).
Wheelchair rugby (or quad rugby) is a fast paced and exciting full wheelchair contact, four-on-four team sport. A volleyball is used because it is lightweight and players can pass the ball forward, backwards or side to side. The game is played on a regulation basketball court with a goal line and key area at each end of the court measuring 8 meters wide and extending 1.75 meters from the goal line. Players score goals by crossing the goal line identified by cones with ball in possession. One point is given for each score. Four eight-minute periods are played in a regulation game.
Players have various disabilities that preclude their play in stand-up, able-bodied sport competition. Players must have a combination of upper and lower extremity impairment to be considered eligible to compete.
All players are given medical and functional exams to determine whether the player qualifies for the sport and the classification they will be assigned for competition. Most players in quad rugby have acquired spinal cord injuries although there are players who have sustained some type of amputation to their limbs, recovered from polio or have cerebral palsy, which results in some type of attendant quadriplegia. Players are classified from one of seven areas ranging from 0.5 on the lower end to 3.5 on the upper end.
The United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) Nationals were April 2-4 in Louisville, Ky. The nationals are the highest level of competition there is in the U.S. It’s just amazing. Spectators see and hear players crashing into each other and yell chants of encouragement as they see which teams will make it to the goal line or who will get a penalty. Every so often, there is a moment of quiet as the pit crew runs out on the court to pick up a player who has somehow ended up on on his or wheels. Our local team, the St. Louis Rugby Rams, participated in the tournament and ended up in sixth place after three days of competition.
Wheelchair rugby players are strong, competitive, fun, determined, male, female, young, old and parents. Most importantly, they are all breaking every stereotype about disability.
Lindsey Bean-Kampwerth is the Director of Assistive Technology at Paraquad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.