Sports Wheelchair: Everything You Need to Know

The number of individuals with disabilities choosing to participate in sports and athletic activities is increasing dramatically. The mainstream media all over the world is increasing coverage of para-sports thus attracting people’s attention to these sports. If you have seen any sports being played by athletes in a wheelchair, you must have noticed that the wheelchair used in sports look very different from the regular manual wheelchair we see around. Whether you are just curious about those sports wheelchairs or are looking for information about sports wheelchairs with the intention to get one for yourself, this write-up will be beneficial for you.

In this write-up, you will find all the basic information about sports wheelchairs. So, keep reading.

What is a Sports Wheelchair?

First thing first, let’s define a sports wheelchair for you. A sports wheelchair is a wheelchair designed specifically for athletic activities. Any sport or athletic activity requires better speed, smooth maneuverability, better balance, etc. thus making it a necessity to design a specific wheelchair for the purpose.

A point worth noting is that different sporting activities like rugby, basketball, curling, etc. have different requirements and hence wheelchairs are designed differently for different sports. In fact, many competitive sports have pre-defined guidelines for wheelchairs to be used by athletes. A person without the prescribed design of a wheelchair is not allowed to participate in the competition.

Let’s leave the discussion about different types of sports wheelchairs for a while and stick to the basic sports wheelchair. Keeping the specific features for specific sports aside, we can talk about the features of a typical sports wheelchair.

  • They are ultra-lightweight to make them easy to handle.
  • The frame is typically rigid or non-folding to reduce the propulsion effort.
  • The sports wheelchair typically has a low center of gravity to reduce the risk of falling off.
  • They have slanted wheels to improve balance and control.
  • The front wheels are smaller to allow additional agility.
  • The wheels are aligned in such a way that they allow quick sharp turns and flips.
  • They are equipped with straps to keep the athletes secure in their seats.
  • The armrests and footrests are of reduced size or non-existent.
  • They are equipped with anti-tipper wheels for added safety.
  • They are made using lightweight but strong materials like aluminum and titanium.
  • Sports wheelchairs are highly customized. They are designed keeping the sports in mind and are made to fit the athlete.

What Sports are Adapted for Wheelchair Users?

There are many sports that have been adapted as wheelchair sports to be played by disabled athletes. All these sports have standardized rules for wheelchairs. The standardization is done in order to make an equal playing ground for all the participants. Just like sporting equipment like balls, rackets, etc., wheelchairs are checked to ensure that the rules have been followed well. While most wheelchair sports are adapted for manual wheelchair users a few can be played on electric or power wheelchairs too.

  • Wheelchair Basketball
  • Wheelchair Curling
  • Wheelchair Racing
  • Wheelchair Rugby
  • Wheelchair Tennis
  • Wheelchair Dance
  • Wheelchair Fencing
  • Power Hockey
  • Wheelchair Netball
  • Wheelchair Soccer
  • Wheelchair Trail Riding

Can a Sports Wheelchair be used for Day to Day Activities?

Sports wheelchairs are definitely different from the regular manual wheelchair. The important considerations for a sports wheelchair include the sports to be played, age, weight, height, and diagnoses of the athlete. On the other hand, regular wheelchair’s weight, height, and physical condition of the user are enough information. So, we can say sports wheelchairs are comparatively highly customized. This may bring us to the conclusion that sports wheelchairs are better than regular wheelchairs, so why not use them for our daily needs?

No, we cannot use sports wheelchairs for our day-to-day activities. In fact, athletes who take part in sporting activities regularly also keep a separate wheelchair for daily activities and a different one for their sporting needs. This is just like keeping different shoes for different activities. A running shoe is very comfortable while running but no one wears them throughout the day. Sports wheelchairs are just like that.

Reasons that make sports wheelchairs unsuitable for daily needs.

  • Needs more space – Sports wheelchairs, be they for any sports, needs more space than any regular wheelchair. If you see a sports wheelchair like a handcycle (used in wheelchair racing) you will realize how much space they need. The slanted or cambered wheels of most sports chairs make them larger in width. Most of our houses and public buildings will become inaccessible if we use sports chairs as a regular wheelchairs; we won’t fit in doors.
  • Not easy to carry – Sports wheelchairs are ultra-light in weight as compared to our regular wheelchairs but they are typically not foldable. Their rigid frame and larger size make it difficult to carry them everywhere. With our regular foldable wheelchairs, we can go anywhere and easily take our wheelchairs with us.
  • Not comfortable for sitting for long hours – Sports wheelchairs are very compact and in many of them, the sitting position of athletes is such that it will be painful to stay in that posture for long hours. It is just like running shoes. They are comfortable for running but one cannot stay in them throughout the day. We need the comfort of our house slippers. In exactly the same way sports wheelchairs are good to play on the court but one needs the comfort of a regular wheelchair for sitting for long hours.
  • Not fit for regular propulsion – As we have discussed earlier, the front wheels of a sports wheelchair are much smaller than a regular wheelchair. These wheels improve efficiency in the sports court/field but they can create issues in daily life when you have to cross a curb or if you have to pass through some uneven surfaces. The smaller the wheels the greater the chance of them getting stuck. The slanted rear wheels outwear disproportionately and may need to be replaced frequently when used regularly.

Conclusion

Sports wheelchairs are designed for sporting purposes. They give more speed and balance to the athletes while playing the sport but we cannot use them for our daily activities simply because they are not made for the purpose.

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"Sports Wheelchair: Everything You Need to Know." Wecapable.com. Web. February 6, 2023. <https://wecapable.com/sports-wheelchair-everything-you-need-to-know/>

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"Sports Wheelchair: Everything You Need to Know." (n.d.). Wecapable.com. Retrieved February 6, 2023 from https://wecapable.com/sports-wheelchair-everything-you-need-to-know/

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