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Accessible sport: wheelchair basketball rules

A man plays wheelchair basketball
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As the Paralympics approach, many disabled people are prepared to be inspired to consider taking part in accessible sports.

One such option is wheelchair basketball and, if you are keen to start playing the game, you’ll need to understand wheelchair basketball rules.

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First played in the Rome Paralympic Games in 1960, the game of wheelchair basketball was founded in the US by injured soldiers who wanted to continue to play their beloved game. Anyone with a lower limb impairment who is not able to play non-disabled sport can take part, and increasing numbers of local sports centres are starting to incorporate accessible team sports into their schedules.

Wheelchair basketball rules

If you are already familiar with the game of wheelchair basketball, some of these rules will come as second nature to you. However, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the sport to make sure you know what you’re doing when you play! Don’t worry, though, as most amateur games will involve teaching you the rules as well as playing the game, so don’t panic if you can’t remember them all.

Also, while the formal wheelchair basketball rules incorporate information about international competitions, most players (unless they aim to be professionals or Paralympic stars themselves) will only need to know the ones involving game play.

  1. The size of the court and the height of the basket are the same as for Olympic Basketball, although some junior games use a lower basket height
  2. A wheelchair basketball team includes five players
  3. Two teams play against each other in one game
  4. In the group stages of tournaments, twelve teams compete in the men’s game and ten in the women’s game
  5. A wheelchair basketball match involves four quarters, each lasting ten minutes. This makes the total court time 40 minutes
  6. When a player takes possession of the ball, his or her team has only 24 seconds to make an attempt to score a basket
  7. Wheelchair basketball players need to move the ball around the court. We are all familiar with how non-disabled basketball players dribble the ball, but what about wheelchair-using players? Wheelchair-using players dribble the ball by bouncing it and pushing their chair at the same time or by putting the ball on their lap and pushing their chair up to two times, bouncing the ball and then putting the ball back on their lap
  8. ‘Travelling’ is against the rules of wheelchair basketball. In order to avoid committing this foul, players must throw or bounce the ball for every two pushes of their wheelchair wheels
  9. When a player scores, he or she gets one point for a successful free throw, two points for a normal field basket and three points for a shot made from behind the arc of the three point line
  10. Players must avoid committing fouls. If any player commits five personal fouls, they must be taken off the court and replaced by another member of the team
  11. In terms of contact on court, the wheelchair is considered to be part of the player’s body where charging, blocking and other violations are concerned.

Wheelchair basketball classification

Players of wheelchair basketball do not have to use wheelchairs all the time; they must have a physical impairment that affects their lower limbs and can be tested for. These kinds of impairments might include paraplegia, lower limb amputations, polio or cerebral palsy. Players are tested on their ability to carry out the skills involved with the game (such as pushing, shooting, rebounding, dribbling, catching, passing and pivoting). They are then classified with a certain number of points, which range from 1 to 4.5. During a wheelchair basketball game, the team’s players on the court must not exceed a total of 14 points.

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