In Germany approx. 350 athletes, among them 40 women, participate in organized wheelchair rugby competitions. The national programme has 3 levels according to the performance of about 40 teams: 1st Division; 2nd Division divided in North and South; Regional League for new teams. The national team qualified for three paralympic events: Sydney 2000; Athens 2004 and Beijing in 2008. The team is ranked between 6th and 11th place by the IWRF over the years.
Eligible are athletes with physical impairments effecting at least 3 extremities. In majority impairments of players are spinal cord injuries (tetraplegics); amputations; paralysis; cerebral palsy. Women play together with men. Statistically the number of women is only 1/3rd. Because of the severity of arm impairments the majority of athletes cannot play wheelchair basketball.
Teams, Playing Court, Basic Rules
The rugby court is the same as in basketball. A goal of 8m width is drawn at both end lines. The key area of 1.75m width covers the area in front of goal. Each team has 4 players on court. Solidarity with physically more disabled players is the main reason to use a classification system. According to degree of remaining functions to play wheelchair rugby the players obtain points from .5 through 3.5. .5 and 1.0 players receive a fair chance to participate on a team by limiting the total of points of all four players to 7.0. Internationally the team limit is 8.0. Participation of women is encouraged by adding a bonus of 1.0 (international .5) to the team limit.
Goals are scored by a player crossing the goal line in possession of the ball (volley ball with good grip). A team in possession of the ball has to adhere to the 40 second time limit to score. The members of the team assist to block the opponents or passing or dribbling the ball to each other to succeed in scoring a goal. The defending team is allowed to block the wheelchairs as well and to bar progress with their wheelchairs and to attack the ball to prevent passing or scoring. Pressure to progress with the ball is effectively applied by the defending team in the back court due to the time limit of 12sec to advance the ball to the front court. Body contact is strictly forbidden and called a foul. To score a goal is eased by limiting the defending team to 3 to stay in the key area and to secure the goal. Dynamic play is supported by keeping the offensive team active due to the time limit of 10sec for any of the 4 offensive players to remain in the key area.
4 x 8min effective playing time challenges the fitness of the players. During the short breaks between the quarters and 4 time outs of 1/2min duration as well as 2 technical time outs from the bench allow the players to recover from strenuous play.
Violations of the rules (examples):
- Body contact; violent and unfair wheelchair charging
- Ball returning to back court
- Penalty: loss of ball possession; up to 1min in penalty box (ends after an opponent scores)