Sport and recreation are a valuable part of any healthy lifestyle, contributing to improved physical and mental health in addition to providing an opportunity to form new friendships with like-minded people. Unfortunately, for disabled people, there are greater barriers to participation in sport which can discourage and alienate this significant portion of the population. In fact, participation in sport in Australia by disabled people is estimated at a little over 20% - approximately half of the national average. If you are a wheelchair user and interested in sport, consider the following three options to get your journey started.
Wheelchair tennis is a great sport to pick up to begin with as there is no risk of contact or impact with another player (unless you happen to have a run-in with your own doubles partner!). In wheelchair tennis, standard, unmodified courts are used and all the same rules are followed with the exception of one: two bounces are allowed instead of one, giving the players greater opportunity to continue rallies. Have a look online for footage of the game in play to get a feel for things, and reach out to your local team if it grabs your interest.
Wheelchair basketball is a terrific game to get involved with as it allows people with varying levels of impairment to compete against each other at the same time. Depending on the type of impairment and the level of use a player has of their limbs, points are assigned to that player to denote their classification, ranging from 4.5 points for a person with a minor impairment to one point for a more severely impaired player. Five players play for each team, with a total of 14 points allowed between team members, making basketball a great way to meet a range of new people and become more active at the same time.
Wheelchair rugby has a reputation for being a little rough (after all, it was originally known as 'murderball'), and compared with the aforementioned sports, this is certainly the case; however, it is also a highly entertaining and energetic game which would give any player a great workout. Generally, the game is played indoors on a standard-sized basketball court, with a maximum of 8 players on the court simultaneously. The object of the game is to carry the ball past the goal line of the opposing team to score points, with contact between chairs an accepted (and essential) element of strategy. A great game for anyone who enjoys a challenge and isn't afraid of a few bruises!
The correlation between physical inactivity and poor health is clear and undeniable. Barriers to participation in sport certainly exist for disabled people; however, it is worth seeking out local teams and disability day programs and giving any of these great games a try. Non-disabled friends and family members are also generally welcome to participate in wheelchair sports at the club level and in training sessions, and will undoubtedly find them a great workout for the upper body and cardiovascular system. If you haven't already, have a look for a disability sports group near you and get involved. Have fun!