Invictus Games 2016 Wheelchair Rugbyby Leana Kell
The Invictus Games was held in Orlando this month, and was a resounding success for the third year running. The Games features a week of sports for the wounded, injured and sick serving personnel and war veterans and has developed a huge following.
Centurion regularly supplies equipment to wheelchair rugby teams across the UK and in 2014, was delighted to sponsor the England wheelchair rugby team with kit. We've been actively following the Games this year and we were delighted to see the UK win the bronze medal for Wheelchair Rugby, with the USA and Denmark taking Gold and Silver respectively.
To celebrate, we take a look below at Wheelchair Rugby and the equipment needed to ensure best practice.
About Wheelchair Rugby
Wheelchair rugby is a team sport played by men and women with a mobility-related disability in at least three limbs (known as tetraplegia). The sport combines elements of basketball, handball and ice hockey and was originally invented in 1977 in Winnipeg, Canada by a group of athletes with quadriplegia who were looking for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball.
Originally known, and still often referred to as "Murderball" because of its aggressive nature, wheelchair rugby has built up a staunch following and is now played as a Paralympic sport, and also by able bodied sports people, in more than 25 countries, as well as being under development in several more.
Wheelchair rugby was first included at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 as a demonstration sport and debuted in Sydney at the 2000 Olympic Games. At the Olympic Games London 2012, Australia took the gold medal, while Canada took Silver and the bronze medal went to the USA. Wheelchair rugby will take place at the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio in the Barra Zone.
Equipment for Wheelchair Rugby
To compete in Wheelchair Rugby, athletes must be seated in manual wheelchairs specifically designed for the game. In international competitions, detailed specifications are provided to ensure that all wheelchairs meet the requirements needed to ensure safety and fairness throughout the game.
If you are just starting to learn the sport, any manual wheelchair can be used, although you'll find it much easier to play in a Rugby chair. Many players begin with wheelchairs adapted from wheelchair basketball and only switch to Rugby chairs when their skills have improved and they have become committed to the sport.
Rugby chairs come in two different types - offensive and defensive chairs. Offensive wheelchairs are used to gain speed and mobility and contain a front bumper and wings to prevent other wheelchairs from hooking them. Offensive wheelchairs are typically used by players with more function. Defensive wheelchairs, contain bumpers set up to hook and hold other players. These wheelchairs are most often used by players with less function.
Most athletes playing Wheelchair Rugby wear gloves to help protect their hands and skin during play. The benefits to wearing gloves are to provide additional grip when pushing the chair and to aid with starting and stopping. Gloves can also help compensate for any loss of hand and finger function related to injury. In addition, gloves make the process of catching, throwing and handling the ball much easier. There are many types of gloves to choose from, but rubber coated gloves are preferred by many athletes due to their cost and the grip they can provide.
Strapping is a highly important part of preparation for a Wheelchair Rugby game. Being properly strapped into your Rugby chair will ensure you are stable and will improve all aspects of your performance. If athletes are strapped in correctly, the Rugby Chair will respond like a natural part of the athlete's body. Strapping occurs in three primary areas:
- Waist - to compensate for a lack or weakness in trunk muscles
- Thighs - to keep the legs firmly in place and stop them from shifting side to side during play
- Feet – to keep the feet firmly in place in a comfortable position on the foot plate
Strapping can be made from leather, neoprene, nylon, rubber or other materials. It is advised that athletes speak to a coach to help determine what type if strapping is best suited to their needs.
A Wheelchair Rugby athlete will need plenty of additional equipment to aid them on the court. Some of the more common pieces of equipment a wheelchair athlete may carry with them are extra rolls of athletic tape, extra gloves and strapping, extra inner tubes for the Rugby chair and spare parts such as spokes, bearings and axles. A small toolkit with wrenches, pliers etc is also useful. Every Wheelchair Rugby athlete should also have one or two spare wheels for their Rugby chair with properly inflated tyres that are ready to be used at any given time.