Ever watched wheelchair basketball and wondered why all the players are different sizes and heights and sit in a variety of wheelchairs? Well this is down to the athletes impairments and what they are classified as. Here’s a quick overview as to how classification in wheelchair basketball works!

Wheelchair basketball was one of the first disability sports to use a functional classification system instead of a medical classification system. The classification system is a system that assess people on their level of impairment and then assigns them to a group of similarly impaired athletes.

The classification for the sport is set by IWBF (International Wheelchair Basketball Federation) and is extremely important because it achieves an acceptable balance between teammates with different degrees of impairment – the higher the points number, the greater the player’s functional capacity.

Chairman of IWBF Classification Commission Don Perriman explained, “Classification is essential because it creates an even playing field. Theoretically teams have the same capacity of players on court at all times and it also gives the opportunity for players of all levels to have an equal right to play.”

With five players on the court, the total number of points may not exceed fourteen.

The lowest score and with that the players with the highest degree of impairment are the 1 point players. Players with minimal impairments are classified as 4.5. The division is made by steps of 0.5.

Chairman  Perriman went on to say, “The key thing about wheelchair basketball is it is a very functional system in other words we actually watch the players on court to classify them and it’s based around the capacity to execute basketball skills.”

So to assess them the examiners look at the capacity to be upright in the chair, to lean from side to side, forwards and backs, how they pass and how they shoot. The valuation is confirmed by the capacity to perform different movements which produces the following classification:

There are also players who do not fit exactly with this classification. In this case the examiner is allowed to add or to deduct half a point to a special class. Therefore there are classifications with 1.5, 2.5, or 3.5 points.

Over the years the classification system hasn’t changed a lot explains Don Perriman. “The philosophy is still the same. We might have some very slight shifts but to try and make sure that no player is advantaged or disadvantaged against another player in the same class is still the same.”