Athletes with CP in the Sport World

Oct 07, 2015
Tagged with: Athletes with CP in the Sport World

Wheelchair rugby has been a competitive sport in the US for almost 30 years and it has been an inter-national competitive sport over the last 20 years. There have been many changes to the sport of wheelchair rugby, within the game, the rules, and the equipment. However, there has also been a change that has very much impacted the sport from an athlete point of view. The inclusion of athletes with cerebral palsy (CP) have shaped or impacted the many teams in the world of wheelchair.

The origins of wheelchair rugby or “Murderball,” was specifically created towards athletes that have a spinal cord injury (SCI), more specifically, quadriplegics or “quads.”  These athletes have a SCI that has caused paralysis in their upper body, biceps, triceps, and balance. Wheelchair rugby very much caters toward these athletes that have this impairment.  It was about 10 years ago that I first spotted an athlete with CP. Now, I am sure that there may have been some prior to my entry into the sport. However, what was very apparent is that  athletes with CP are very much a part of wheelchair rugby.

Many athletes with CP typically play wheelchair basketball, which for quads was very difficult to compete which is why wheelchair rugby was created. However, the unique skill set for wheelchair basketball was not very conducive for many athletes with CP. What makes an athlete with CP unique is that the impairment of spasticity can very much effect their participation in basketball. Trying to gauge a reaction time due to spasticity can deter  effectiveness. This can result in issues with dribbling or catching a ball. However, what is even more unique with CP is that there are many levels of spasticity in which reaction can time is minimized. What has been recently happening in other sports is that athletes with CP have been classed out due to minimal spasticity and reaction time. Basically, it has become difficult to determine if there is any type of impairment at all. There have been published stories of some sports that have classed out athletes with CP.  But how would that translate to rugby?

Wheelchair rugby has very much embraced athletes with CP. Many of these athletes have used their basketball chair skills and parlayed them into a successful rugby athlete. Like any other rugby athlete it is a commitment to the sport and their yearning to part of a team that has been a valuable and welcomed addition. There have been athletes with CP that have elevated their game and the success of their team.

What is important to remember, as we celebrate World CP Day, is that the inclusion of athletes with CP to many sports has provided a competitive component in which these athletes have taken advantage of. In our nation, where many people and athletes with disabilities have limited participation in exercise, fitness, and competitive sport, athletes with CP are filling up spots in swimming, basketball, rugby, boccia ball, power soccer, track and field. Their participation is proof that if opportunities exist for people with disabilities then you can expect these athletes to be the first ones to sign up.

In regards to wheelchair rugby, athletes with CP have already made a smashing impact. I hope for continued success to all athletes with disabilities that know of the benefits of living a healthy active lifestyle through competitive sport.  Keep moving!

Author: Bob Lujano