Playing sports is a way to release energy, keep healthy and meet new people. The same is true whether the individual is able bodied or handicapped, young or old. Wheelchair basketball is just another way for individuals to stay active. It was developed during the mid 1940s for individuals injured from World War II. Although it is not the first of its kind, wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports for the handicapped. Almost all of the rules and regulations in basketball also apply to wheelchair basketball with a few exceptions. People who are handicapped have different physical and mental abilities therefore a classification process was devised to make the playing field equal. The rules are based from the international system, which makes it easier to play the same sport regardless of where the playing field is located.
The idea of wheelchair basketball was developed during the World War II. During this time, a large number of soldiers and civilians were injured because of the war. They still had a lot of energy but felt trapped and useless in their wheelchairs. Playing sports was a great outlet that made people feel that they could still be apart of something bigger than themselves. In 1946, the United States had six teams playing. By 1948, the first college based team, the University of Illinois Gizz Kids was formed. A year later, a group of students from the same university and Tim Nuggent, the Director of Rehabilitation, formed the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBA). Within a few years, the sport had spread to various parts of the globe. In 1960, the sport was first included in the Roman Paralympic Programme, an international sporting event for the handicapped. Wheelchair basketball became one of the most popular sports. The women’s division was established in the 1970s. In 1977, the First Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament was held. The first NWBA Junior Division was played in 2008. Revisions to the rules of the game were made less than a year later to accommodate younger players.
Wheelchair basketball utilizes the same rules as able-bodied basketball. The size of the court and ball is the same while a second dribble is not allowed. Traveling violations involve three pushes of the wheel chair without bouncing the basketball. Compared to able-bodied basketball, defending is easier as the chair acts as an additional screen. Some regulations have been created to make the sport safer. The chair, for example, must not have anything sticking out while the footplate should be lower than 11 cm. from the floor. Standard seat heights and wheel sizes are also indicated to make it fair for all the players.
During the first years of the sport, some disabled individuals felt that the sport was too rough. A classification process was developed to make both teams play on equal footing. Before the game, each player is evaluated based on their ability to control their wheelchair, dribble, pass, shoot, rebound and how the person reacts when in contact with other players. Individual players are assigned points between 0.5 to 4.5 based on their abilities. The points of the players on the court must not exceed 14 at any time or the team receives a technical foul. Classifications are based on the rules specified by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF). There are four classes of athletes. Class I and II athletes are unable to control their upper body and need to use their arms to control their sitting posture. With Class III athletes, they are able to turn and lean forward but not from side to side. Class IV athletes are capable of making any movements except lean from side to side.
A moderate level of physical activity helps in improving the health of a person. It does not need to be exhausting but the individual has to do the activity regularly. There are several reasons why physical activity is good for the body. One is that it makes the body stronger, making the person less likely to die prematurely or develop diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or even colon cancer. For people that do have high blood pressure, exercising helps lower the levels. The physical activity also helps people to lose weight and keep it at a healthier level. As a player trains and practices, they tone and strengthen various muscles in the body while increasing stamina. In older people, playing sports helps reduce any joint pain or swelling, making them less likely to experience arthritis. Playing sports also makes people feel better emotionally by making them feel less depressed and anxious. Wheelchair basketball is a type of team sport that encourages communication between the players, improving one’s social skills. Becoming better in the sport also helps increase confidence. Although wheelchair basketball has many benefits, it is suggested that people consult with a physician before starting any new routine or program.
Studies have shown that people with some form of disability tend to be less involved in physical activity even though it is important for all types of people to stay healthy. Support from loved ones such as family and friends can help in encouraging the person to start exercising or playing sports. The game of wheelchair basketball is designed to help wheelchair bound individuals stay active and remain healthy. It is also a way to meet new people and gain a more positive outlook on life. A 20 minute game each day is all it takes for a healthier, happier person, regardless of age, gender or abilities.
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