Credit: Martin Saych

About Wheelchair Rugby

As one of the only full-contact disability sports, it is little wonder wheelchair rugby, aka ‘murderball’ was one of the biggest hits of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The sport is open to both men an women, and is one of the only games which allows them to compete on the same team.

But it’s not only players who are welcome; there are loads of opportunities to play your part on the sidelines too. We’re constantly on the look out for referees, coaches, officials and support staff to help at training sessions and tournaments. Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more.

History

The game was invented in 1977 in Canada by a group of tetraplegic wheelchair basketball players who were tired of losing out on court time to their more functional team mates. Clearly many others felt the same as the sport quickly grew in popularity and spread to the USA.

The sport landed on these shores in the early 1980s, when the States team flew over to give an exhibition at Stoke Mandeville. Soon after our first three clubs were established and there are now more than 20 teams up and down the UK.

Globally, the sport was debuted at the World Wheelchair Games in 1990 and  it became a full Paralympic sport at Sydney 2000, following a demonstration at games in Atlanta 1996.

Great Britain have constantly competed with the world’s best teams, qualifying for every Paralympic Games and winning five gold medals at the Wheelchair Rugby European Championships.

For more information on the game and current world rankings, visit the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s website, iwrf.com.

Gameplay

Wheelchair rugby’s no-holds-barred nature quickly earned it the nickname ‘murderball’ soon after its inception. It’s a game loaded with full-contact, hard hits, speed and physical determination, making it a thrilling watch.

The game is played on a basketball court, with boundary lines, a centre line, centre circle and two key areas. Two cones at each end of the court mark out a goal area, and a goal is scored when a player carries a ball across the line.

Games are played in four eight-minute quarters and each team has 40 seconds to score a goal before the ball gets turned over. Chair-to-chair contact is allowed, but person-to-chair and person-to-person contact is not.

Teams are made up of up to 12 players, with four on court at any one time. Each person has a vital role to play, which is ensured by using a classification system based on muscle function and strength. Classes range from 0.5 to 3.5, and the team of four players must total eight points or less during play.

For the full rules of the game and more information on the sport’s classification system, check out the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s website at iwrf.com.