Did you lead an active life before your mobility issue got in your way? Are you worried that those days are over?
If you answered yes to both of the questions above, first, don’t worry. The mobility industry is vibrant, and there are a number of excellent companies out there that offer a wide range of custom sports chairs. While you might struggle to find the right chair for some sports, it’s easy enough to find fantastic custom options that cover a wide range of activities.
In this article, we’ll step you through everything you need to know to ensure that when you’re ready to spend the money, you’ll get exactly the custom sports chair you were hoping for. If that sounds good to you, read on, and let’s take a closer look!
What is a Sports Model Wheelchair?
Let’s start here, in case you’re not familiar with the term. Simply put, a sports model wheelchair is one that’s designed and optimized for a given sport. The first question, then, is what sport you are interested in playing? Basketball? Rugby? Football? Tennis? Racing?
Whatever sport you’re into, the odds are good that you’ll find wheelchairs for that sport. Best of all, if you’re not sure, or if you want a chair that will allow you to play several different sports, you can do that too. There are a number of great general-purpose wheelchairs for sports that can be adapted to almost any purpose.
Types of Wheelchairs For Sports
Broadly speaking, there are two types of chairs to talk about here. On the one hand, there are what are best described as “modular” sports wheelchairs. These are typically offered by mid-sized or larger manufacturers that allow customers to mix and match a range of mass-produced components, putting together a highly custom chair for you.
Then there are the hand-built, highly specialized sports chairs that are completely unique from top to bottom. You can certainly get started with a modular sports wheelchair, but if you’re serious about competing and want to take your game to the next level, you really want a custom sports wheelchair.
How Much Does a Sports Wheelchair Cost?
This is one of the first questions most people ask, and it’s easy to understand why. After all, the overwhelming majority of us are on a budget, so we can’t just go out and grab anything we like without thinking about the bottom line.
The good news is that an outdoor sports wheelchair isn’t as expensive as you might think. For that matter, even a totally custom sports chair isn’t off the charts expensive. The short answer is that you can expect to pay between $1200 and $1500 for something totally custom-built that fits you like a glove.
You might be wondering how that’s even possible, given that it’s not any more than a decent powerchair would run you, but here’s the thing:
Mass-produced chairs are more expensive than they could be because there are quite a few middlemen involved. The manufacturer sells them to retailers, who either sell them to each other or you. Also, the person handling the chair before you buy it tacks on an extra bit to the final price you pay.
Where custom chairs are concerned, there is no middleman. You contact the company, tell them what you want (we’ll have more to say about that a bit later), and then, they make it for you. No middleman means a lower total price, and that’s good news for you.
How to Choose Your Sport Wheelchair
Choosing a sports wheelchair isn’t as simple as saying, “Hi, I need a wheelchair I can play tennis in.” There’s a lot more to it than that.
For one thing, if you’re going to get something totally custom, you’re going to need to take a number of careful measurements and give those to whatever company you choose to work with. At a minimum, here are some of the data points the people who build the chair for you will need:
- Backrest Height
- Caster Housing from Rear Axle
- Degree of Camber
- Frame Width at Footrest
- Front Caster Size and Type
- Frame Finish
- Front Seat Height from Ground
- Rear Seat Height from Ground
- Rear Wheel Axle Distance from Back post
- Rear Wheel Size and Type
- Seat Width
- Seat Upholstery Depth
- Top of Footrest to Seat
As you can see, you’ll need to take a fair number of measurements. Of course, you can shortcut the process a bit if you’ve already got a chair you like and that fits you well. You can get the bulk of the measurements you need from your existing chair.
If that’s not an option, find a chair you like in your home and get what measurements you can from that. You may need help to get some of these, but don’t cut corners here. The more accurately you measure, the more your custom chair will fit you perfectly. That matters because your adjustment options will be fairly limited once the chair is in your home (as is the case with most wheelchairs).
Bear in mind that since you’re ordering something totally custom, you have virtually unlimited latitude. If you want a custom-sized seat that fits you precisely, you can have that. If you want the chair’s center of gravity slightly offset for some reason, you can have that too. The sky really is the limit!
Sport Wheelchair Suppliers
As mentioned earlier, you can order modular wheelchairs for sport and active users from many major manufacturers, including but not limited to E&J, Permobil, Quickie, and Invacare. When it comes to totally custom builders, here are a few of the options you’ll find:
- 7730 – 238th Place SW; Edmonds, WA 98026
- (425) 774-98026
- [email protected]
- Price range: $1,400 and up
- Warranty: Five years limited (everyday).
- Delivery time: 4-6 weeks
- 2351 Parkwood Road; Snellville, GA 30039
- (800) 932-9380 / (770) 972-0763
- (770) 985-4885 (fax)
- [email protected]
- Price range: $1,200 and up
- Chairs offered: Everyday, junior
- Warranty: Five years, frame; one year, parts (except tires)
- Delivery time: 30 days
New Hall’s Wheels
- P.O. Box 380784; Cambridge, MA 02238
- (800) 628-7956
- (617) 628-7955 / 628-6546 (fax)
- Price range: $1,875
- Chairs offered: Everyday, junior
- Warranty: Limited lifetime
- Delivery time: 46 weeks (custom)
- P.O. Box 35-059 Shirley NZ
- 0800-4-MELROSE or +64-3-383-1664
- FAX: +64-3-383-3641
- Units 8B & 8C, Chasepark; Industrial Estate, Ring Road, Chasetown; Staffordshire WS7 8JQ, England
- 44 (0) 1543 670077 / 44 (0) 1543 670088 (fax)
Final Thoughts on Choosing Custom Sports Chairs
Whether you’re looking for a chair that will make it possible for you to enjoy your favorite sport, or you just want something super stylish that fits you like a glove, a custom sports chair may well be the answer. They’re not as expensive as you might think, and you’ll have something that will last for years and get you where you want to go in style.
Resources & References:
- Advantages of Manual Wheelchairs, Spinlife.
- Benefits of Sport and Physical Activity for the Disabled, PubMed.
- Wheelchair Sports: News, Events, Rules and Information, Disabled-World.