An unfortunate stereotype of wheelchair users that sadly continues to persist among the general public is that they are inactive shut-ins who are incapable of physical activity. But cultural icons from Artie on the hit TV show Glee to police officer Joe Swanson on the animated comedy series Family Guy are slowly changing that perception, and websites catering to edgy fashion styles and accessories for wheelchair users are also on the rise. Perhaps the most exciting and refreshing trend that is dispelling the old stereotypes, however, is the international proliferation of wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair basketball has been around for many years. It is rooted in a program developed by Dr. Ludwig Guttman, a neurologist who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 to practice medicine in England. At the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, Dr. Guttman began to adapt various sports for play by wheelchair users in 1944, including shot put, javelin, and archery. Wheelchair basketball was first introduced in 1947 in Britain, though American disabled veterans had been playing the game for about a year prior to that in the United States. The game continued to evolve over the next ten years, finally becoming more or less the same game it is today around 1956. World championships for wheelchair basketball have been conducted from 1973 to the present year in various locations around the globe.
The rules for wheelchair basketball are nearly identical to that of the standard game, including a 10-foot tall hoop. The main differences involve the definition of traveling - wheelchair basketball referees call a traveling violation when a player touches their wheels more than twice after receiving the ball. They must either pass, dribble, or shoot, before touching their wheels a third time. Additionally, free throws are shot from the second, third, and fourth markers in the middle lane of the court instead of the regulation free throw line for player safety.
To ensure that a balanced game is played, players are classified based on the points on their body where the disability presents, usually denoted by the letter and number combination signifying a vertebra of the disability's origination. Three classes of players have been established by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) to keep this game balance. Class I players have complete motor loss at or above T-7, or a comparable disability. Class II players have complete motor loss originating at T-8 and descending through L-2, and this category also includes amputees with bilateral hip disarticulation. Class III players includes all other disabilities originating at or below L-3 and amputees who don't fit into the Class II definition. Each class of player is worth a given number of points equal to their assigned class, and no single team can exceed a 12-point value of players on the court at any given time. This allows players with different degrees of disability to participate together on the same team without either team having a significant advantage, in theory.
If you are interested in participating in wheelchair basketball events, the NWBA makes it very easy to do so. Visit their website now for a complete list of teams across the country and find the one closest to you! Or, if none exist in your locale, but you (and maybe a few friends, too!) would like to start your own team, you can register with the NWBA and get connected with other leagues in your region!
And last but not least, wheelchair basketball uses specialized wheelchairs to allow participants to maximize their performance on the court - and USM carries them right here on our website! Click here to browse our selection of sports wheelchairs, or contact one of our wheelchair specialists now by dialing 1 (800) 251-7250!