Wheelchair Sports 101
17 May 2023
Playing sports is one of the most prevalent phenomena in the world with the majority of people regularly watching or playing, regardless of country, age and background. It’s a universal language that is loved by so many and has so many benefits for the player and supporters.
One of the most significant worries for new wheelchair users is the concern for lack of mobility, however, the wheelchair has been designed to give the user safety, comfort and independence in their day-to-day life. There has been a large uptake in the popularity of wheelchair sports as most games can be adapted for wheelchair users. Doing something familiar to the participant can be extremely rewarding and helps to build self-esteem, particularly for new wheelchair users.
There are a huge variety of clubs available across the UK from beginner through to professional so whichever level you are at, you can be sure there is a team for you. Many clubs offer free taster sessions which gives you the opportunity to meet the team, try the sport and find which club is perfect for you. Wheelpower specialises in British wheelchair sport, offering a variety of resources and a list of teams that offer each wheelchair sport.
Benefits of Wheelchair Sports
Wheelchair sports help to build muscle and stamina, as well as improve your mental well-being and confidence which is hugely important. Many participants find their lives dramatically change and improve once they start getting involved in wheelchair sports.
Sports and Mental Health
It’s no secret that sports and fitness are excellent for mental health, not only is physical movement important for releasing endorphins but interacting and playing as part of a team supports emotional well-being and is an excellent chance to meet new people and challenge yourself.
If you have begun using a wheelchair more recently you may have feelings of uncertainty and loneliness, joining a sports team is an excellent idea for meeting new people who you can relate to or have had similar experiences, as well as finding a new hobby. Speaking to someone who can relate to you is invaluable for your mental health and the sense of belonging that often comes with being a part of a sports team is an excellent help for those struggling.
What sports can I try as a wheelchair user?
The majority of sports can be adapted and played in a wheelchair with some of the rules modified but the staple point of the game remains. Let’s take a look at some of the sports that wheelchair users can get involved in:
Wheelchair fencing is a really interesting sport, with the upper body being trained along with precision and stamina. Protective gear is required for all participants including masks, puncture-resistant jackets, breeches and gloves. Participants may not stand up during the match, leaving players to rely on ducking and moving to win.
This is one of the most popular wheelchair sports with perhaps one of the biggest advantages being that the court size and rules are almost exactly the same. Several minor adjustments have been made for ease, and this is a great starting off point for anyone wishing to get involved in wheelchair sports. Wheelchair basketball is excellent for building confidence as you are able to start solo and gradually build players and difficulty as required.
Wheelchair sports don’t have to be competitive. Dance is an excellent way to express yourself whilst reducing stress, and all types from Tango to Ballroom have been adapted for wheelchair use.
Wheelchair rugby is played on a basketball court and is similar to standard rugby rules in that players must get the ball past the opponent’s try line. It is a very physical sport and players are allowed to make contact with each other’s chairs to knock them down or to get the ball. This is a wheelchair sport that would definitely need an adapted wheelchair to survive all those knocks!
Wheelchair tennis has been part of the four Grand Slam tournaments, since 2007 and has grown in popularity ever since. The sport is played on a regular court, and the height of the net isn’t changed. The only main rule change is that the ball is allowed to bounce twice with the second bounce being allowed to bounce outside the court lines.
If you are interested in getting into a wheelchair sport, but don’t really consider yourself to be particularly ‘sporty’, then wheelchair archery is a great sport to play. The rules for wheelchair archery are exactly the same as able-bodied archery and the good thing about this sport is that you do not need an adapted wheelchair to play!
There are plenty more sports available that have been adapted for wheelchair users. If you can think of a sport, there probably is a wheelchair version of it! You can find an extensive list of wheelchair sports on the Wheelpower website.
If you are planning to get into wheelchair sports, a specially adapted chair is recommended which will streamline your performance and maximise safety. These types of chairs are usually non-folding to ensure security on impact, the wheels are turned in for stability during turning and the chair is made of lightweight material. If you are a beginner looking to purchase an adapted wheelchair, speaking to other team members or a local coach means you can identify your requirements and get a better understanding of the right chair for your sport.
If you are looking to keep fit but don’t fancy getting into a sport, there are a plenty of exercises you can do at home. Take a look at our handy wheelchair exercises blog for some ideas.
Blue Badge Mobility Insurance
Although we do not offer wheelchair insurance that covers sport activities, we can offer excellent wheelchair insurance for day-to-day use for both electric and manual wheelchairs. If your wheelchair gets damaged or is lost or stolen this can cause a huge disruption in your life so our comprehensive insurance is designed to ensure you can get moving and back to your daily routine as soon as possible. From just £24 our insurance includes:
Having peace of mind that your wheelchair is protected is invaluable. To find out more or speak to our friendly team, get in touch today.