Fast facts about wheelchair rugby

Canadian Paralympic Committee

July 25, 2018

Brush up on your wheelchair rugby knowledge ahead of the 2018 world championships.

Canada protects the rugby ball away from Sweden


The countdown to the GIO 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships is on, as Canada and 11 other nations are preparing to fight for the title in just a couple weeks.  

One of the most exciting and popular Paralympic sports, wheelchair rugby is a mixed gender sport played to full intensity every game. Brush up on your wheelchair rugby knowledge below ahead of the world championships.  

Wheelchair rugby was developed in Canada

The sport originated in Winnipeg, developed by a group of tetraplegic athletes (paralysis in both the arms and legs) looking for a new activity for players with reduced arm and hand function. It was first known as Murderball, befitting its full-contact rules, fast pace, and aggressive nature.

Canadian Duncan Campbell, known as the “Quad Father” was one of the founders of the sport. He was the first inductee into the IWRF Hall of Fame last month.

The sport has grown exponentially since its inception with 28 countries now participating in international competition. The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) was founded in 1993 and the sport first became a medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Athletes are classified into seven sport classes

There are seven different sport classes in wheelchair rugby – 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5. The most significant impairments are classified in the 0.5 class, for example, athletes who have significantly limited function in their shoulders, arms, and hands. Athletes in the 3.5 class, meanwhile, have good arm and hand function and so likely would be a ball handler on their team.

There are four players on the court at one time, and their combined classification points cannot exceed 8.0, in order to maintain a competitive and fair balance between the two opposing teams.

Aim is to score goals by crossing opposing team’s goal line

Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court, the same size as a basketball court, and a game is split into four eight-minute quarters. The basic aim of the game is to outscore the opposing team. A goal is scored when a player carries the ball across the opposition’s goal line with at least two of the four wheels on his or her wheelchair. Their team is then awarded one point. 

Australia is the current world No. 1

The United States (2), New Zealand (1), and Australia (2) have shared the title of Paralympic champion since 2000. Australia has won the past two Paralympic gold medals at Rio 2016 and London 2012. Canada has two silver medals (Athens 2004 and London 2012) and a bronze medal (Beijing 2008) in its trophy case. The team finished in fourth place two years ago at the Rio Games.

Follow the world championships August 5-10 in Sydney

The GIO 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships run from August 5-10 in Sydney, Australia, and Canada’s games will be livestreamed on and the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Facebook page. The world championships is the biggest tournament in the sport outside of the Paralympic Games. Canada will be one of 12 nations competing. Australia is the defending world champion, beating Canada in the final at the 2014 tournament in Denmark.

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