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 CLASSIFICATION

Classification provides a structure for competition in Paralympic sports. Classification has existed since the Paralympic Movement first began in the mid 1940s. Athletes competing in sports in the Paralympic Movement have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage.  Classification determines who is eligible to compete in a specific sport, and also groups athletes into sport classes according to the effect of their impairment on the ability to carry out fundamental sport specific activities in that sport. The purpose of classification is to minimize the impact of impairments on sport specific performance and to ensure the success of an athlete or a team is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. The athlete (or team) who wins should be the best at that moment in time, and not the one with the least impairment.
 
This area of the website has been created to give athletes, coaches, classifiers and other stakeholders information on classification for education about classification, the process of athlete evaluation to obtain a sport class and the procedures used in classification in wheelchair rugby. This information provides full transparency of the classification processes and procedures. 
 
 
CLASSIFICATION IN WHEELCHAIR RUGBY
 
Athlete evaluation is the process an athlete goes through for assessment of impairments and the impact of these impairments on wheelchair and ball activities in wheelchair rugby. Athlete evaluation consists of muscle strength testing and sport activity testing carried out in a cooperative process with the athlete by certified USQRA classifiers who are formally trained and professionally certified in physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or medicine..
 
To be eligible to compete in Wheelchair Rugby, an athlete must have an impairment/s caused by a verifiable and permanent health condition that impacts the performance of fundamental activites of the sport.   Wheelchair rugby offers sport opportunities to athletes with impaired muscle power, limb deficiency, short stature, impaired passive range of motion, and impaired coordination (such as hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis).
 
The current classification system (revised in 2010) was developed to measure impairments in muscle power and limb deficiency. Sport classes for athletes in wheelchair rugby with other eligible impairment types is based more on expert observation of the impact of these impairments on sport specific activity and performance on court. The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation, in the interest of continuing the worldwide growth of the sport, elected to include athletes with these additional impairment types, which are not yet measured as objectively as muscle weakness. Then again, the wheelchair rugby classification system is not stagnant and research in improving the system for athletes with other eligible impairments is currently underway.
 
Comment:  The Paralympic Movement offers sport opportunities for athletes that have a primary impairment that belongs to one of the following 10 eligible impairment types: impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, visual impairment and intellectual impairment.
 
 
The Steps in Athlete Evaluation:
 
Athlete evaluation consists of; (1) verifying if the athlete has an eligible impairment, (2) assessing the severity of impairment and confirming the athlete meets minimum impairment criteria to play rugby, and (3) determining the impact of impairment on the fundamental activities of wheelchair rugby to give a sport class.
 
 
Eligibility Tests
 
These tests will determine if an athlete has an eligible impairment type and that the severity of impairment is sufficient to proceed on to the rest of athlete evaluation. The outcome of this step could be the athlete is not eligible (NE) and will not move forward to the athlete evaluation. This step should be conducted after the interview process and prior to the full impairment assessment, or bench test
 
Impairment Tests (Physical Assessment or Bench Test)
 
This physical assessment to measure the level of impairment includes trunk tests, manual muscle tests, and hand tests (if appropriate). Athletes will be requested to remove uniform tops to observe and evaluate muscle function and movements during the evaluation. This part of the evaluation will be completed in the athletes sports chair. Female athletes should wear appropriate underclothing to permit removal of their uniform shirt. The athlete may also be asked to transfer to other surfaces for testing, such as a treatment table, floor mat or chair.
 
 
Trunk Tests
 
Assessment of the trunk and lower extremities is usually done out of the sports chair with the athlete sitting on a table or plinth. The possible impairment scores for the trunk are 0, 0.5, 1.0 or 1.5. (This test may be done first following the interview and prior to other impairment tests, as part of the assessment of eligibility.
 
 
 
Hand Tests 
 
A more detailed battery of tests for the hands may be used if an athlete is on the border of the 3,0 and 4.0 scores for hand impairment. Refer the current USQRA classification rules for the descriptions and scoring for these tests.
 
 
Sport Specific Tests (Technical Assessment or Functional Movement Tests)
 
The extent of activity limitation and impact on sport performance is confirmed by sport specific tests that simulate wheelchair and ball activities and by novel non-sport activities to estimate the influence of training. In this part of the evaluation,, the classifiers evaluate activities in a non-competitive environment, and in some cases a simulated competitive environment; and with and without equipment, such as gloves and taping,  to estimate the effect of equipment.. Pushing, turning, stopping, starting, holding the chair against resistance, dribbling, passing, and rimming or picking the ball up from the floor are some of the activities that may be evaluated
 
 
Observation Assessment (Observation On-Court)
 
The last step in athlete evaluation is the observation of sport specific tasks on-court during training and/or play. The athlete may be observed performing ball handling and wheelchair activities on court during actual game play and under challenged situations. If observation is necessary and observation during competition is not possible, this step may be completed prior to game play by watching training activities
 
 
Sport Classes in Wheelchair Rugby
 
The objective of classification in wheelchair rugby is to (1) determine eligibility to participate in wheelchair rugby and (2) to group athletes into one of seven sport classes allowed for competition (0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5). The higher the sport class number, the less severity of impairment and the lesser impact on sport specific activities. Each sport class has a distinct profile and athletes in each class often play specific roles on the court, although there can be some overlap in the adjacent sport classes.
 
All parts of athlete evaluation are considered when the classification panel decides on the athletes sport class. At the completion of the impairment tests and the sport specific tests, the classification panel gives the athlete an entry sport class. This sport class allows the athlete to take the court and play. After the conclusion of the observation assessment, the classification panel confirms the athletes sport class, and the classification card is made or updated.
 
Comment: In athletes with impairments other than muscle weakness, impairments such as passive range of motion, sensation, and muscle tone may be considered in the athletes ability to perform the fundamental wheelchair and ball activities during sport specific testing and during on court observation. However, at this time, these impairments are not measured in the classification system.
 
Refer to the most current USQRA classification rules for the USQRA classification form and the method used for the classification panel to calculate sport class.
 
 
Taking the Court
 
To be permitted to play wheelchair rugby, an individual must have completed an athlete evaluation, been allocated one of the seven sport classes and possess an official USQRA card.
 
Comment: Athletes from nations other than the USA, who have an international sport class allocated by the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF), and who are officially playing on a USQRA team, must possess an official IWRF card. Refer to the most recent USQRA rules on international athletes competing in the USQRA.
 
 
Classification at a Tournament Classification Panel Requirement
 
To be able to allocate valid sport classes and provide USQRA classification cards to athletes at a tournament, a team of three certified classifiers must be present, with the composition of the classification panel depending on the type of tournament.
 
Refer to the most current USQRA classification rules for the required panel compositions for invitational tournaments and for the post-season tournaments.
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CLASSIFICATION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
 
What if an athlete does not agree with his/her sport class?
 
Athletes have the right to challenge a decision taken by a classification panel, either of their own sport class or that of an opponent. If an athlete does not agree with his or her sport class decision, this is done through a protest procedure. To put in a protest, the athlete must obtain a protest form from the USQRA website and submit the completed form and a $50 protest fee to the USQRA head of classification or to the chief classifier at a tournament where there will be a authorized classification panel. The protest fee is returned to the athlete if the protest is upheld and the sport class is changed. If the panel does not uphold the protest and the sport class decision is unchanged, the fee is not returned. Be sure and read the protest procedure instructions carefully, as the protest may not be accepted without a valid reason or if the form is not complete or not legible and the protest fee is not submitted.
 
*Note: click on link to download protest form.
 
 
What if an athlete or team does not agree with the sport class of an athlete on another team?
 
Athletes have the right to challenge a decision taken by a classification panel, either of their own sport class or that of an opponent. If an athlete does not agree with a sport class decision of an athlete on another team, this is done through a protest procedure. To put in a protest, the athlete must obtain a protest form from the USQRA website and submit the completed form and a $50 protest fee to the USQRA head of classification or to the chief classifier at a tournament where there will be a valid classification panel. The protest fee is returned to the athlete if the protest is upheld and the sport class is changed. If the panel does not uphold the protest and the sport class decision is unchanged, the fee is not returned. Be sure and read the protest procedure instructions carefully, as the protest may not be accepted without a valid reason or if the form is not complete or not legible and the protest fee is not submitted.
 
 
What if an athlete or coach thinks the classification panel made an error during the classification process?
 
If an athlete does not agree with a sport class decision, the procedure to follow is a protest. If the athlete feels that an error was made in the classification process, the procedure to follow is an appeal. An appeal is the filing of a complaint that the error during the Classification process resulted in an unfair decision. The appeal must be submitted to the USQRA Board for investigation and resolution.
 
 
What if there is a change in the athlete's degree of impairment or sport-specific activities and it is felt that the class is no longer consistent with the athlete's sport class?

If there is any change in the nature or degree of the athlete's impairment or activity limitation, either through medical intervention or other means, this falls under exceptional circumstances and the Athlete should submit a Medical Review Request to the Head of Classification.This form should be submittedalong with medical documentationfrom a medical doctor with the specific expertise related to the athlete’s health condition that explains the change in impairment. The medical review request form and accompanying medical documentation must be submitted to the USQRA Head of Classification at least 1 month prior the competition where the athlete intends to compete and classification will take place. The documentation will then be reviewed by theUSQRA Classification Committee to determine if there is sufficientevidence to support a change exists. The athlete will then undergo another evaluation by a panel at the next opportunity. The acceptance of the medical review request does not guarantee sufficient change has taken place to result in a change in the athlete's current sport class.

*Note: Click on link to download Medical Review Request Form.
 

Where can I get a copy of the wheelchair rugby classification rules?
 
As of the 2005 AGM (annual general membership meeting), the USQRA Membership adopted the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) classification rules (for definitions of classes and most rules relating to the classification system). Download a pdf copy of the IWRF classification manual here (english). The IWRF Classification manual is published in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean.
 
The USQRA Classification Committee has a USA specific set of rules, regulations, policy and procedures that relate specifically to the USQRA and these are published in the USQRA Classification Manual. Download the USQRA Classification Manual here.
 
 
Who can become a classifier?
 
Any individual with the appropriate professional qualifications (PT, OT, MD) with formal training in neuromuscular evaluation and who demonstrates competence in manual muscle testing of the upper extremities, trunk, and lower extremities can enter training to become a wheelchair rugby classifier. To pursue training and certification, one must also have the knowledge or willingness to learn about wheelchair rugby.
 
 
How does one go about becoming a classifier?
 
Those with the appropriate professional qualifications who are interested should contact the USQRA head of classification, or the sectional classifier contact that is nearest to where you live. (Contacts listed at the end of this document). Any classifiers you meet can also give you contact information for the appropriate parties to get you started.
 
While you are waiting to make the proper contacts, watch as much wheelchair rugby as you can (YouTube, USQRA website, IWRF website, and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) website all have online clips and highlights as well as full matches available), volunteer with a local team, attend a local teams practice, attend a tournament, watch live streaming of wheelchair rugby on the web, watch the award winning documentary film Murderball or watch any sport for persons with disabilities you can find live or on the web.
 
 
What is the pathway for training and certification as a classifier?
 
The first step is to complete a USQRA classifier application form and attend a basic workshop consisting of an introduction to the sport, classification rules and the steps for conducting an athlete evaluation. Following the workshop, practical training with a classification panel is required. The basic workshop is approximately one hour long and is usually associated with practical training with a classification panel at a tournament, which requires a 1-2 day commitment.
 
There are four levels of certification for classifiers providing a pathway from basic certification to advanced certification, including administrative and leadership skills, and the potential to advance to certification as an international classifier.  
 
The qualifications and competencies for certification at each of the four levels are:

Level I

  • Hold a professional PT, OT, or MD license or credential at the time of certification,
  • Demonstrate experience with neuromuscular evaluations,
  • Submit an application form and attend a basic classification workshop, and
  • Sign a USQRA Code of Ethics.

Level 2

  • Do a complete a bench test and explain findings to senior level (level 3 or 4) classifier and basic explanation to athletes and
  • Demonstrate ongoing contact hours with wheelchair rugby.

Level 3

  • Do a complete athlete evaluation (impairment and sport specific testing and on court observation) and provide a clear and concise explanation to classifiers, athletes, coaches, Regional Assistant Commissioner (RAC) and PCB (Player Classification Board) members,
  • Instruct a basic classification workshop,
  • Active participation at the Regional level and have two seasons of active rugby experience, and
  • Participate in a protest.

Level 4

  • Have served as a Chief classifier for a Regional or Sectional tournament,
  • Active participation for at least three seasons.
  • Have participated in at least two protests and/or a decision of not eligible
  • Ongoing involvement in leadership roles such as administrative or management roles, and/or educational roles such as supervision, education and training of classifiers, and/or classifier certification, and
  • Eligible to seek certification at the international level if requested.
 
Can an athlete become a classifier?
 
Yes, if an athlete meets the professional qualification, he or she may go through a formal classifier training program. If an athlete wishes to pursue a classifier certification pathway, the athlete should be retired from playing rugby because of potential or perceived conflicts of interest.
 
 
Who do I contact if I want to host a classification panel and/or classifier training clinic?
 
Contact the USQRA Head of Classification, Phyllis Palma
 
 
Who to Contact
 
Questions regarding classification should be sent via e-mail to the USQRA Head of Classification or to the most relevant member of the USQRA Classification Board of Directors or your local sectional contact to answer your question:
 
USQRA Classification Board
Title Name Email address
Head of Classification Phyllis Palma phyllis.palma@gmail.com
Secretary Katie Milner katie.milner@gmail.com
Treasurer Phyllis Palma phyllis.palma@gmail.com
Database Administrator Cyndy Ellis cyndyellis@gmail.com
Educational Training Michelle Lanouette michelle.lanouette@med.va.gov
Policy and Procedure Anne Hart anne.hart@nau.edu
Website development Liz Woodruff woodruff16@hotmail.com
 Sectional Contacts:
Section Name E-mail address
Atlantic Amy Bohn abohn929@gmail.com
Heartland Michelle Lanouette michelle.lanouette@med.va.gov
Mountain Katie Milner katie.milner@gmail.com
Pacific Paul Sawicki paulsawicki@aol.com