Introduction to the
Wheelchair Rugby is a team sport for male and
female quadriplegics. It is a unique sport created by athletes
with a disability that combines some elements of Basketball,
Handball, and Ice Hockey. The object of the game is to carry the
ball across the opposing team's goal line. Two wheels must cross
the goal line for a goal to count, and the player must have firm
control of the ball when he or she crosses the line.
All Wheelchair Rugby players compete in manual wheelchairs.
Players must meet the minimum disability criteria of the sport and
must be classifiable under the sport classification rules.
History of Wheelchair Rugby
Wheelchair Rugby was invented in 1977 in Winnipeg, Canada, by a
group of quadriplegic athletes who were looking for an alternative
to Wheelchair Basketball. They wanted a sport which would allow
players with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally.
The sport they created, originally called Murderball, is now known
as Wheelchair Rugby.
Wheelchair Rugby first appeared outside Canada in
1979 at a demonstration at Southwest State University in
Minnesota. The first Canadian National Championship was held the
same year. The first team in the United States was formed in 1981,
and the first international tournament, bringing together teams
from the US and Canada, was held in 1982. Throughout the 1980s,
other local and national tournaments took place in various
countries. The first international tournament was held in 1989 in
Toronto, Canada, with teams from Canada, the USA and Great
Britain. This was a breakthrough for developing international
competition and co-operation. Wheelchair Rugby first appeared at
the World Wheelchair Games in 1990 as an exhibition event.
In 1993, with 15 countries actively participating, the sport
was recognized as an official international sport for athletes
with a disability and the International Wheelchair Rugby
Federation (IWRF) was established as a sport section of the
International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation
(ISMWSF). Seven countries participated in Wheelchair Rugby at the
1993 Stoke Mandeville World Wheelchair Games.
In 1994, Wheelchair Rugby was officially recognized by the
International Paralympic Committee as a Paralympic sport. The
first Wheelchair Rugby World Championships were held in Notwil,
Switzerland, in 1995, with eight teams competing. In 1996
Wheelchair Rugby was included as a demonstration sport in the
Atlanta Paralympic Games. Since the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games,
Wheelchair Rugby has been a full medal sport at all summer
In 2010, responsibility for governance of the sport of
Wheelchair Rugby internationally was transferred from the
International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation to the
International Wheelchair Rugby Federation.
Who can play
To be eligible to play, individuals must have a disability
which affects both the arms and the legs. They must also be
physically capable of propelling a manual wheelchair with their
arms. The majority of Wheelchair Rugby players have spinal cord
injuries which 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; there are no separate teams for men’s and women’s
What equipment is required?
Athletes compete in manual wheelchairs. The rules of the sport
include detailed specifications for the wheelchairs to ensure
safety and fairness; in international competition, all wheelchairs
must meet these requirements.
To begin to play, any manual wheelchair may be used, although
the game is easier when played in a lightweight sports-type
wheelchair. Many players begin using wheelchairs adapted from
The game is played with a white ball identical in size and
shape to a regulation volleyball. In addition to the ball, four
cones, pylons, or other similar markers are required to mark the
ends of the goal lines. A game clock and a shot clock are also
required; any clock used for basketball will be sufficient.
What facilities are required?
Wheelchair Rugby is played indoors on a regulation sized
basketball court. Hardwood is the preferred playing surface,
although other surfaces are acceptable. The playing surface must
be accessible to people in wheelchairs. Any facility which can be
used for wheelchair basketball will be sufficient for wheelchair