The United States Quad Rugby Association helps people get involved in the fastest growing wheelchair sport in the world. Many players have their own story to tell and have found a desire to compete that they had not felt since before their disability.
For many wheelchair sports is so much more – it is a peer support group, bringing about positive changes for those who get involved.
Quad Rugby was originally developed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1977 by five athletes, who wanted a different game than basketball and ice hockey. The name given to this new sport was murderball, as it is a very fast paced and competitive sport.
The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation was developed as the governing body in 1993.
The sport was first introduced in the United States by Brad Mikkelsen. With the help of the University of North Dakota’s Disabled Student Services he formed the first American team, called the Wallbangers.
The first North American Competition was held in 1982. The name officially changed from murderball to Wheelchair Rugby in the late 1980’s. The US changed the name to Quad Rugby.
The first international tournament hosted at Toronto, Canada in 1989 featured teams from Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. In 1990, Wheelchair Rugby first appeared at an exhibition event at the World Wheelchair Games. Three years later, in 1993, it was recognized as an official international sport for athletes with a disability by the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation.
The first IWAS World Rugby Championships were held in Nottwil, Switzerland in 1995. At the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, Georgia it appeared as a demonstration sport and was given full medal status at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.
Teams can have twelve players, however only four are allowed on the court at a time. They are played in four – eight minute quarters. Both males and females can play on the same team.
The object of the game is to score a goal (one point) by crossing the goal line with at least two wheels while maintaining possession of the ball with the opposing team defending the goal. It is played with a ball similar in size to a regulation sized volleyball on a basketball court with goal lines marked by cones in a lined-off key area. The team with the most points when time runs out wins.
Although quad rugby is a full contact sport, no physical contact is permitted.
A team cannot have more than three players in their own key while defending the goal line. Offensive players can only be in the opposing teams’ key for 10 seconds, a player must bounce or pass the ball within 10 seconds, and teams have a total of 40 seconds to score a point or concede possession. This makes wheelchair rugby a fast paced, competitive sport, much like able bodied rugby matches.
Players use a manual wheelchair with detailed specifications for the wheelchair. Most players use a custom made sports chair, and many use a basketball chair. Equipment on this sports chair feature a front bumper, designed to help strike and hold opposing wheelchairs and wings, which are positioned in front of the main wheels making it more difficult to stop and hold. All wheelchairs must have spoke protectors to prevent damage to the wheels and anti-tip devices on the back.
The ball for quad rugby is identical in size and shape to a regulation size volleyball and typically has a slightly textured surface for a better grip. The ball is normally overinflated compared to a volleyball, to provide a better bounce.
Other protective equipment used by players includes gloves, applied adhesives to assist with ball handling, and various forms of straps to help maintain a good seating position.
The majority of athletes have spinal cord injuries at the level of their cervical vertebrae (neck). Other eligible players may have multiple amputations, polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or Guillain-Barre´ syndrome among other medical conditions.
Athletes are classified according to their function by using a point system with values starting at .5 ranging up to 3.5. The total value of all players on the court cannot exceed 8 points.
Each athlete is assessed to determine their level of disability by completing a series of muscle tests designed to evaluate their strength and range of motion in the upper limbs and trunk.
Wheelchair rugby classification is conducted by personnel with medical training – usually physicians, physiotherapists or occupational therapists. The classifiers must be trained in muscle testing and in the details of the wheelchair rugby classification.
More than 24 countries playing wheelchair rugby are divided in to three zones.
Major international competitions are Zone Championships held in each odd numbered year; World Championships held every four years in even numbered years (opposite the Summer Paralympic Games) and the Paralympic Games.
Wheelchair sports can not only be competitive, but have many positive influences on the individuals who participate in them. Team play can serve as a support group for many to encourage and uplift those participating.
To find out more about Quad Rugby and to find how you can get involved contact the United States Quad Rugby Association or the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation.