Wheelchair Basketball

Canadian Clinical Blog by Sheilagh Sherman, BA, BHScOT, MHM, OT Reg. (Ont.) - Sunrise Medical

Last summer, Clinical Corner looked at two different sports for individuals who are wheelchair users – handcycling and wheelchair tennis. See Wheelchair Tennis and Handcycling for the full articles. This month, let’s continue our look at parasport with a focus on wheelchair basketball.

Before we begin, let’s start with a definition of parasport. The Canadian Paralympic Committee defines parasport as “sport for people with a disability. It is ‘para’llel to sport for able-bodied athletes, with adapted equipment or rules to make the game fun and accessible for everyone.”1 This article will provide some insights into the features of wheelchairs designed for basketball, in addition to reviewing some of the rules of wheelchair basketball that allow for inclusion.

Why the focus on sports in Clinical Corner? It is important to remember that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”2 Participating in sports allows for active engagement, in addition to the physical and mental benefits of regular activity. For therapists working in the area of seating and mobility, the prescription of an everyday wheelchair can address “infirmity” or a mobility impairment, whereas addressing participation in the broadest sense, whether it is in sport, the arts or other areas of client interest, can facilitate health in its fullest sense.

Basketball Wheelchair Design


Photographs are Copyright Sunrise Medical, Inc.

A wheelchair that has been designed for use in playing basketball has some distinct design features, making it different than an everyday wheelchair. First of all, the wheelchair is a rigid frame design, which maximizes the efficiency of propulsion as no energy is lost to flex in the frame. The rear wheels are set at either 16 or 20 degrees of camber. This allows for lateral stability in addition to maneuverability, which is important when playing basketball. The fifth wheel at the rear of the wheelchair acts as an anti-tipper. (There can be an option of 2 rear anti-tipper casters, instead of one in the centre, at the time of ordering the wheelchair.) If we think about game play, having a rear anti-tipper that makes contact with the ground provides rearward stability to the wheelchair when a player reaches rearward to catch a basketball or to make a pass to a teammate. At the front of the wheelchair, the caster wheels are set further apart for stability when leaning forward or to the side. A winged bumper also is at the front of the wheelchair, which offers some protection to the player and to the wheelchair from other wheelchairs on the court.

The Game

The rules of wheelchair basketball are similar to the rules for stand-up basketball. The size of the court, the foul and three points lines, the height of the basket, and the scoring are the same as able-bodied basketball.3 There are some differences when it comes to dribbling and travelling and fouls and violations. For example, there is no double dribbling call in wheelchair basketball. A player may bounce the ball and wheel the chair at the same time, but once the ball is picked up or placed on the player’s lap, the player may complete only two push strokes before either passing or shooting the ball or dribbling again. Travelling occurs if a player takes more than two push strokes while possessing the ball without dribbling.

When it comes to violations, the wheelchair is considered part of the player’s body. For a violation, such as going out of bounds, the points of contact on the ground with the casters, rear wheels, and anti-tipper relative to the lines on the court matter. In addition, a player must remain firmly seated in the wheelchair at all times. The player cannot lift out of the seat or use the legs to gain an unfair advantage. This would be a technical foul.3


Classification of players allows for fairness in competition. In wheelchair basketball, each member of the team is classified and assigned a point value, ranging from 1.0 to 4.5, depending on their functional ability related to basketball skills. Each player is evaluated on their ability to wheel, dribble, pass, react to contact, shoot, and rebound. 4 Individuals in lower classes have more functional limitations, whereas individuals in higher classes have fewer limitations. This is different than other sports, which may base classification on muscle function or medical diagnosis.5 How this comes into play in a team sport is that of the 5 players on the court at one time, the combined total of points cannot exceed 14.4 This allows for individuals with various skill levels to play together.


This month, we have looked at the sport of wheelchair basketball, from the equipment and rules to the classification for parasport to ensure fairness in competition as participation in sport can facilitate overall health and well-being.


  1. Canadian Paralympic Committee. (2013). What is Parasport? Retrieved from http://paralympic.ca/what-parasport.
  2. World Health Organization. (2017). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/suggestions/faq/en/.
  3. Wheelchair Basketball Canada. (2017). About the sport. Retrieved from http://www.wheelchairbasketball.ca/the-sport/about-the-sport/.
  4. Wheelchair Basketball Canada. (2017). Classification. Retrieved from http://www.wheelchairbasketball.ca/the-sport/classification/.
  5. Canadian Paralympic Committee. (2013). Wheelchair Basketball. Retrieved from http://paralympic.ca/wheelchair-basketball.

As always, please provide your comments, questions, and suggestions regarding Clinical Corner. Please email me at Sheilagh.Sherman@sunmed.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sheilagh Sherman BA, BHScOT, MHM, OT Reg. (Ont.) - Clinical Education Manager, Canada

Sheilagh Sherman, BA, BHScOT, MHM, OT Reg. (Ont.)

Sheilagh Sherman joined Sunrise Medical Canada in 2010 as a Clinical Educator. Prior to joining Sunrise, Sheilagh gained extensive clinical experience working in a variety of settings, including neurological rehabilitation, complex continuing care, and community rehabilitation. As the Clinical Education Manager, Sheilagh is a clinical resource for therapists across Canada involved in seating and mobility. She leads workshops, seminars, and webinars on the clinical aspects of seating and mobility. In addition, Sheilagh has presented at national and international conferences on seating and mobility.

Sheilagh also has an educational background that makes her well suited to the role of Clinical Education Manager. Sheilagh earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto in 1988, which enables her to understand healthcare policy and policy changes. Sheilagh graduated with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Occupational Therapy) degree from McMaster University in 1994. In 2012, Sheilagh earned a Certificate in Adult Education/Staff Training from Seneca College. She applies adult learning principles to the workshops she leads. Finally, she also has a Master of Health Management (MHM) degree from McMaster University after graduating in 2015. Courses that Sheilagh completed during the MHM degree, such as Knowledge Translation, Evaluating Sources of Evidence, and Quality & Safety in Healthcare, assist Sheilagh in using an evidence-based approach in her work.

In her free time, Sheilagh enjoys running, in addition to practicing yoga.

Date: 2017-06-28

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