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Wheelchair Rugby Rules

Rugby isn’t just a sport for able-bodied athletes. Wheelchair rugby is a robust and popular game with simple rules for both female and male wheelchair users, most of whom have amputations, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, paraplegia, quadriplegia, or spinal injuries. Certain formats of this game requires that every player is paraplegic, while others require disability of three limbs (at least) in all players. 

In a wheelchair rugby game, players are classified according to their type of impairment. Players in a rugby game can have different types of impairment. A team can also be made up of athletes with a variety of classifications. 

All players in a wheelchair rugby game are only allowed to participate in manual wheelchairs. Most players, however, particularly those who are experts of the game, prefer using specialist, sports, and lightweight wheelchairs that are easier to maneuver and much faster, but first timers can start by using their regular wheelchair. For the sake of fairness, when participating in a wheelchair rugby competition, there are certain rules that all players must follow.  

The wheelchair rugby ball looks like a volleyball, and it is bought mainly for the game. Markers or cones are used to record score points. Also, a clock that gives the correct sports timing must be used. 

A regular-sized rugby pitch is needed when playing a competitive wheelchair rugby game, however for preparation or practice, any pitch with similar setting might work perfectly. Playing on hardwood surfaces is best. The pitch must include two goal areas, a center circle, sidelines, a mid-court line, and clearly marked baselines. The surface must be one that allows wheelchair users to make turns and other wheelchair moves on it. The following are the basic rules that apply when playing a competitive wheelchair rugby game:

  • In the case of competitive play, the game must be played with an official rugby game ball on a basketball court (hardwood) marked with two key areas, sidelines, a mid-court line and baselines.
  • The objective of a wheelchair rugby game is to successfully carry the ball over to the competing team’s goal area to score a point.
  • Before a goal is recorded, two or all wheels of a player’s wheelchair must pass the goal line of the opposing team, and the athlete must have good control or hold the ball while she or he crosses the goal line.
  • Each team is permitted to have up to twelve players, although only four are permitted to be on the court at a particular time.
  • Each player is assigned 1 of 7 numerical sport classes, and this measures their functional ability. This number starts from 0.5 (the lowest level of function) to 3.5 (the most function), and it is measured in 0.5 increments.
  • The total number of sport classes allowed on court for a team must not be more than 8.0 points. Teams are given an additional 0.5 points each for every female player on the court.
  • A wheelchair rugby game is played in 4 eight-minute quarters and there is a two-minute break after the completion of the 1st and 3rd quarters, and a five-minute break at each half.
  • On every ball possession, teams will be given forty seconds to score a goal, unless the time left on the general game clock is less than forty seconds. 
  • After each goal, or after each halt in the game, the athlete has only ten seconds to get the ball inbounded.
  • Any team that makes an inbound in its own end will be allowed twelve seconds to get the ball across the mid-court line.
  • No athlete on the team in possession of the ball is allowed to stay in the competing team’s key region for more than ten seconds.
  • The athlete in control of the ball must pass or dribble the ball at least once in every ten seconds
  • The defending team must not have more than three (3) players in their key region while defending it.
  • The wheelchair rugby sport is a contact sport where wheelchair to wheelchair contact is allowed, but body contact between two or more athletes is not permitted. Notwithstanding, a player is not allowed to strike another player’s chair in a manner that it causes the wheelchair to rotate vertically or horizontally. 
  • In a competitive wheelchair rugby game, each team is given 4 thirty-second time-outs which can be called by any player on the floor, and 2 one-minute time-outs that may be called only from the bench.
  • If a competitive wheelchair rugby game ends without a winner, an extra time period of three minutes will be added. If the game still end up tied, an additional extra-time period will be played until a team wins.
  • There is usually a 2-minute break between each overtime period, and both teams are awarded an additional thirty-second timeout for every overtime period played.
  • A competitive wheelchair rugby game will take exactly 115 minutes to end.


Wheelchair rugby is a two-team competitive sport and it is open to both female and male physically challenged athletes. The sport is an evasion and invasion game. The main objective of the game is to successfully take the ball across the opposing team’s goal line to score points. Players can use brute force (only when necessary) when playing a wheelchair rugby game. The force they apply during a play helps them in defending their key area and to gain more ball possession as well.

Also, wheelchair rugby players may use their chairs to block their competitors, stopping them from scoring points, nevertheless, physical contact between two or more players is not permitted. When players engage in physical contact, it is considered as a violation and the whistle will be blown by the officiating referee.

Anyone who has ever been to or watched a rugby game will find that the game is one of the best wheelchair Paralympic sports. Wheelchair rugby is a tough and rough sport and there is absolutely no time to playing cool!


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