To be eligible to play wheelchair rugby, individuals must have a disability that affects both the arms and the legs. They must also be physically capable of propelling a manual wheelchair with their arms. Athletes must have at least three limbs with limited functions.
The majority of wheelchair rugby players have spinal cord injuries that have resulted in full or partial paralysis of the legs and partial paralysis of the arms. Other disability groups who are represented include polio, cerebral palsy, some forms of muscular dystrophy, dysmelia, amputations, and other neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Men and women are classified equally and compete on the same teams. However, teams are allowed an additional 0.5 points for each woman who is playing in the line-up on the court.
To determine an athlete’s class, classifiers observe athletes as they perform a variety of these movements.
- Physical Assessment; Firstly, classifiers test athletes’ limbs for strength, flexibility, sensation, muscle tone and limb length; and athletes’ trunks (abdominal and back muscles) for balance, ability to bend over and rise up and the ability to rotate to both sides (in combination with leg function, if present).
- Technical Assessment; The athlete is then observed performing both ball handling and wheelchair handling prior to game play and during game play, if necessary.
- Game Observation; In addition, the athlete’s execution of ball and wheelchair handling are observed on court during actual game play.
Typically, an athlete is assigned a class following the completion of the bench test and the functional skills test prior to game play (observation of ball handling and wheelchair skills). The athlete’s execution of ball and wheelchair handling skills are observed on court during actual play to make a final determination of the athlete’s class.
It is responsibility of both players and coaches to be educated about the classification process and the proper procedure. Athletes are responsible for arriving at the classification area at their assigned times and in their playing chairs with gloves, straps and any other equipment that they use during play. Equally as important, the athlete must give full effort and cooperation. Any athlete perceived as not fully cooperating with the classification process may sustain penalties such as:
- May not be given a classification, thus be ineligible to play
- May be disqualified from a tournament, thus be ineligible to play
- May have their class changed at any time
- May not be awarded an international class
In the event that an athlete enters the classification area under the influence of any performance altering substance, the athlete will be asked to leave without receiving a classification and therefore will not be eligible to play.