The worldwide popularity of adaptive sports is on the up and we are certainly seeing the positive consequences of major sporting events, such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, opening their doors to athletes with disabilities for the first time many decades ago.
A lot has changed since the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, which was the first time that the event allowed disabled athletes to compete who were not war veterans. Since then, inclusivity has constantly risen in the sporting world, and stigmas related to disability have dramatically reduced throughout all aspects of life.
One particularly popular adaptive sport is wheelchair basketball and below are 10 interesting things about it which you may not already know:
1. It was played in the inaugural Paralympic Games
As mentioned previously, the first ever Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in the city of Rome. Whilst these days there are over 20 sports featured in the Paralympics, back then there were only 8, and wheelchair basketball was one of them. The USA took gold in both of the wheelchair basketball events during the 1960 games and have remained a dominant force in the sport ever since.
2. You don’t need to be disabled to play
Whilst it is a sport that is particularly popular amongst individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis, wheelchair basketball is an inclusive sport – which means anyone can play (at amateur level at least).
3. Started by soldiers in the 1940s
Basketball has been a popular sport in the USA for well over 100 years, but it wasn’t until after the second World War that wheelchair basketball was invented. The game originated thanks to the veterans, including amateur basketball players, who had been injured during conflict and wanted to continue playing the game that they loved so much.
4. Differences with dribbling
Although many of the rules for wheelchair basketball are the same as able-bodied basketball, there are a few necessary differences – one of which is to do with dribbling. In wheelchair basketball, the referee will call a travelling penalty if the player fails to dribble the ball at least once for every two pushes of the wheelchair.
5. Same Court
The court used in wheelchair basketball is the same size as a regular basketball court and features the same lines. Incidentally, the same scoring rules also apply.
6. Hoop Height
Wheelchair basketball players will typically need to throw the ball further to score – that’s because the height of the basket is 3.05m, the same as in regular basketball.
7. Advanced Chairs
The wheelchairs used when playing the sport are not the typical chairs you see being used during regular day-to-day life. They will have a seat which is positioned lower down and wheels which are angled outwards to help with stability.
Prices vary, but you would be looking at around $1,000 for a basic chair which can be used in wheelchair basketball. At the higher end, chairs can cost over $7,000. Ideally, chairs should be specifically customized to meet the needs of the individual to take into account their size, weight and level of disability.
8. Tipping Over Is a Regular Occurrence
Anyone who has watched wheelchair basketball will know that tipping over is a part and parcel of the game. Despite the chairs being much more stable than regular wheelchairs, the high speed and typically competitive nature of the games means that collisions often occur. Players are held into their chair by a seatbelt to prevent them from falling out in the event of a collision.
9. Contact Is Allowed
As mentioned above, collisions do frequently occur during a game of wheelchair basketball – but this is allowed. There are certain rules that apply when it comes to making contact with another participant, but after all, this is a contact sport just like any other.
10. Slightly Less Playing Time
Compared to regular basketball, which has 4 quarters each lasting 12 minutes, wheelchair basketball games are slightly shorter in terms of duration. A game of wheelchair basketball will last for a total of 40 minutes, split into 10 minute quarters.
A Great Way to Stay Active
Participating in a sport is a great way to stay physically and mentally healthy, this is true for everyone. There are many adaptive sports to consider, but getting involved in a team activity such as wheelchair basketball is likely to bring many benefits than just improved physical health.