Paralympic sports

Paralympic sports

Paralympic sport is the umbrella term for a wide range of sports for persons with physical disabilities. While many persons with physical disabilities participate in sports and recreation at various levels, Paralympic sports refers to organized competitive sporting activities as part of the global Paralympic movement. These sports are organized and run under the supervision of the International Paralympic Committee and other international sports federations.


Organized sport for persons with physical disabilities developed out of rehabilitation programs. Following the Second World War, in response to the needs of large numbers injured ex-service members and civilians, sport was introduced as a key part of rehabilitation. Sport for rehabilitation grew into recreational sport and then into competitive sport. The pioneer of this approach was Ludwig Guttmann of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. In 1948, while the Olympic Games were being held in London, England, he organized a sports competition for wheelchair athletes at Stoke Mandeville. This was the origin of the Stoke Mandeville Games, which evolved into the modern Paralympic Games.


No single organization is fully responsible for governing Paralympic sport. Globally, the International Paralympic Committee is recognized as the leading organization, with direct governance of thirteen sports and responsibility over the Paralympic Games and other multi-sport, multi-disability events. Other international organizations, notably the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA) govern some sports that are specific to certain disability groups. In addition, certain single-sport federations govern sports for athletes with a disability, either as part of an able-bodied sports federation such as the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), or as a disabled sports federation such as the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

At the national level, there are a wide range of organizations that take responsibility for Paralympic sport, including National Paralympic Committees, which are members of the IPC, and many others.

Disability categories

Athletes who participate in Paralympic sport are grouped into six major categories, based on their type of disability:

*Amputee: Persons with a partial or total amputation of at least one limb.

*Cerebral palsy: Persons who have a non-progressive neurological disorder resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or stroke, or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.

*Intellectual disability: Persons who have a significant impairment in intellectual functioning with associated limitations in adaptive behaviour. (This category of is currently suspended from international competitions governed by the IPC.)

*Les autres: From the French for "the others," this includes persons with a mobility impairment or other loss of physical function that does not fall strictly into one of the other five categories. Participants include those with dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or other disabilities.

*Visually impaired: Persons who have a non-correctable vision impairment ranging from partially sighted to total blindness.

*Wheelchair: Persons with a disability that requires them to compete using a wheelchair. This includes most athletes with spinal cord injuries as well as other athletes who require wheelchairs, including some lower limb amputees, persons with polio, and other disabilities.

The disability category affects who athletes compete against and which sports they participate in. Some sports are open to multiple disability categories (e.g. cycling), while others are restricted to only one (e.g. Five-a-side football). In some sports athletes from multiple categories compete, but only within their category (e.g athletics), while in others athletes from different categories compete against one another (e.g. swimming).


A major component of Paralympic sport is classification. Classification provides a structure for competition which allows athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or similar levels of physical function. It is similar in aim to the weight classes or age categories used in some able-bodied sports.

Athletes are classified through a variety of processes that depend on their disability group and the sport they are participating in. Evaluation may include a physical or medical examination, a technical evaluation of how the athlete performs certain sport-related physical functions, and observation in and out of competition. Each sport has its own specific classification system which forms part of the rules of the sport.

Paralympic sports

Current sports

The following table lists the currently practiced Paralympic sports:


** ALA - Amputee and les autres
** CP - Cerebral palsy
** ID - Intellectual disability
** VI - Visually impaired
** WC - Wheelchair

*Governing bodies:
** CP-ISRA - Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association
** FEI - International Federation for Equestrian Sports
** IBSA - International Blind Sports Federation
** ICF - International Curling Federation
** IFDS - International Foundation for Disabled Sailing
** INAS-FID - International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability
** IPC - International Paralympic Committee
** ITF - International Tennis Federation
** IWAS - International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation
** IWBF - International Wheelchair Basketball Federation
** WOVD - World Organization for Volleyball for the Disabled
** CISS - Comite International des Sport des Sourds


The categories listed represent all those groups that participate in this sport at some level. Not all these categories are represented in competition at the Paralympic Games.

The governing bodies listed represent those organizations responsible for the broadest level of participation. In some cases, other disability-specific organizations will also have some governance of athletes in that sport within their own group. For example, the IPC governs multi-disability athletics competitions such as the Paraympic Games; however, CP-ISRA, IBSA, and IWAS provide single-disability events in athletics for athletes with cerebral palsy, visually impaired athletes, and wheelchair and amputee athletes respectively.

Paralympic Games status details the years these sports were practiced as full medal events at the Paralympic Games. Demonstration sport status is not included.

External links

* [ International Paralympic Committee]
* [ Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association]
* [ International Blind Sports Association]
* [ INAS-FID: International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability]
* [ International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation]
* [ Discussion forum of Disabled sports]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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