Did you recently become disabled and are looking for a way to get exercise? Do you love sports and the team comradery that comes with it?

If you answered yes to those questions, get ready to step into the world of adaptive sports.

In this article, we share wheelchair basketball facts regarding how this team sport is played, what’s required to join in, and the equipment needed on the court. Let’s roll!

What is Wheelchair Basketball?

Wheelchair basketball follows a similar format as running basketball, except the players utilize wheelchairs to move around the court. 

It’s suitable for people with a wide range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, congenital disabilities, Spina Bifida, polio, paralysis, and amputations.

This is a fast-paced game, with two teams that have five players and seven substitutes on each. Like running basketball, the goal is to shoot the basketball into the opposing team’s basket to score.

A wheelchair basketball match is 40 minutes total, broken up into four periods of ten minutes. Following a tied score at the end of the fourth period, another period of five minutes is added to break the tie.

The governing body responsible for outlining the rules of wheelchair basketball is the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF). 

Wheelchair Basketball Equipment

Playing wheelchair basketball requires the ball, and most importantly- a specialized wheelchair. 

A basketball wheelchair is manual, meaning the player must propel themselves by the push rims. 

These wheelchairs feature high-tech designs that are customized to fit the unique needs of the player. 

They are incredibly lightweight, often made with an aluminum or titanium frame, designed for optimal speed and maneuverability, allowing the player to turn quickly and anticipate sudden movements.

The players pass, dribble, and shoot the ball. The official basketball of FIBA, the Paralympic Games, and other world championships is manufactured by Molten

A Neon Green Sports Wheelchair

A smaller Molten ball is used by women’s teams while the men play with a larger ball. There are two models: the GG made of composite and the GL made of leather.

A Brief Overview of Wheelchair Basketball History

The dream of wheelchair basketball came to fruition back in 1945 the same year WWII ended. Patients undergoing rehabilitation at two USA World WarII veterans administration hospitals in California and Massachusetts began to play as a means to adjust to a new life in a wheelchair.

It didn’t take long for wheelchair basketball to catch on, and in 1949 six teams were formed to compete in the first national wheelchair basketball tournament in Illinois. 

That same year, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) was born in the US. Afterward, wheelchair basketball quickly spread throughout the country to become the most popular sport for the disabled.

Sports Wheelchair Seat

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that wheelchair basketball for women began to emerge, and in 1968 a women’s team traveled to the Paralympics in Tel Aviv, Israel to compete alongside the US men’s team.

But even then, it would still be years until organized women’s teams were formed to compete against each other in the US. In 1978 an official women’s division with six teams was formed, competing in the national tournament.

The US wheelchair basketball team, the Pan Am Jets brought the sport over to Europe in 1955 when they attended the International Stoke Mandeville Games. 

Wheelchair netball was played at the time, but after the Pan Am Jets dominated the games, European players quickly replaced wheelchair netball with wheelchair basketball.

Wheelchair Basketball Paralympics

Paralympic basketball was one of the inaugural sports at the 1960 Paralympic Games in Rome, and today it is one of the highest honors for a team to win the Paralympics.

The US men’s team took home gold for both Class A and Class B events that year, as well as the year after. 

But how did the rules of wheelchair basketball evolve to become what it is today? We look at how this beautiful game is played in the next section!

Red Sports Wheelchair

How to Play Wheelchair Basketball

When it comes to the rules of wheelchair basketball, it isn’t much different from running basketball. 

The court, height of the basket, three-point line, and foul line are all the same measurements. In 1964, international rules were implemented that led to a few slight adjustments to rules around the world.

Today, the official rules by which national teams abide are those outlined by IWBF. We break down the rules in a few different sections below.

1. How to Score

When one team shoots the ball into the opposing team’s basket, a goal is earned. Once the ball is accosted by a player, that team has 24 seconds to try and sink a shot. If the team is unable to score within that time frame, the right of play is given to the opposing team. 

Sports Wheelchair with Neon Green Frame

There are a few different ways to score a goal:

  • Free throw goals count for one point.
  • Goals scored from the two-point area count for two-point.
  • A goal scored from the three-point area counts for three points.

2. How to Dribble

Dribbling is when a player propels the wheelchair while bouncing the ball at the same time, traveling towards the opposing team’s net. 

However, there is no double-dribble in wheelchair basketball. If the ball is picked up and/or placed on the player’s lap, they can only push the chair twice before they must shoot, pass, or dribble. If more than two pushes are made without dribbling the ball, a traveling violation can be handed out.

As well, the player must not touch the court surface with their feet while holding the ball.

3. How Fouls Work

In wheelchair basketball, the chair is regarded as part of the player’s body if contact is made while charging, going out of bounds, blocking, etc.

Left side of a Sports Wheelchair with Neon Green Frame

Technical fouls can be administered for a variety of reasons, including:

  • An offensive player stays in the key area for longer than three seconds.
  • A player lifts their legs or lifts out of their chair to take advantage of the play.

If a player falls out of their wheelchair, the referee stops the game and makes a call regarding whether the player is at risk of an injury.

For an inbounds play, the offensive player must wait for the ball to be handed to the inbounding player by the referee until moving into the key.

Wheelchair Basketball Classification System

To finish off our article about wheelchair basketball, it’s important to mention the classification system that’s required to play at an international level.

Back of Paralympic Basketball Neon Green Color

The player must first complete a Player Evaluation Process to confirm they meet the following criteria:

  • Eligible Impairment as defined by the IPC Classification Code: They are impaired with muscle power, passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, hypertonia, ataxia, or athetosis.
  • Underlying Condition: This is a health condition that may lead to an Eligible Impairment or helps establish that the athlete has an Eligible Impairment.

What is Sports Class Allocation?

A player’s Sports Class is determined by the players’ physical ability to play wheelchair basketball and complete skills such as dribbling, passing, catching, shooting, rebounding, pivoting, and pushing. 

It’s important to note that the assessment doesn’t focus on a player’s skill level, but rather their physical capacity to complete a task.

During observation, players are classified with points in classes one, two, three, and four. The lower the number, the more severe the disability, whereas the higher number is given to a player with a mild disability.

These classes are distinguished depending on the player’s Volume of Action. This refers to the player’s trunk stability and how the trunk allows them to reach without needing to hold the wheelchair before they overbalance.

Particular skill characteristics are also noted, as each class has its own set of characteristics that qualify a player. 

Once each player has been given classification, the total team balance that can be on the court at any time is 14.0. That means the total classification point of all five players must not exceed 14.0 points, or else they may receive a technical foul.

Side of Wheelcohair Basketball Paralympics Blue Color

Wheelchair Basketball Facts Conclusion

Wheelchair basketball is one of the leading sports for people with disabilities, allowing people of all ages to enjoy fast-paced competition and exercise in a team setting.

To conclude this article about wheelchair basketball facts, the best starting point for joining a team would be to look up your local wheelchair basketball chapter and contact them for more information on the rules, regulations, and equipment.

References and Resources:

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