Wheelchair Rugby – The Rules
Wheelchair rugby is mostly played by two teams of up to twelve players. Only four players from each team may be on the court at any time. It is a mixed gender sport, and both male and female athletes play on the same teams.
Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court of the same measurements as a regulation basketball court — 28 metres long by 15 metres wide. The required court markings are a centre line and circle, and a key area measuring 8 metres wide by 1.75 metres deep at each end of the court.
The goal line is the section of the end line within the key. Each end of the goal line is marked with a cone-shaped pylon. Players score by carrying the ball across the goal line. For a goal to count, two wheels of the player’s wheelchair must cross the line while the player has possession of the ball.
A team is not allowed to have more than three players in their own key while they are defending their goal line. Offensive players are not permitted to remain in the opposing team’s key for more than ten seconds.
A player with possession of the ball must bounce or pass the ball within ten seconds.
Teams have twelve seconds to advance the ball from their back court into the front court and a total of forty seconds to score a point or concede possession.
Physical contact between wheelchairs is permitted, and forms a major part of the game. However, physical contact between wheelchairs that is deemed dangerous — such as striking another player from behind — is not allowed. Direct physical contact between players is not permitted.
Fouls are penalized by either a one-minute penalty, for defensive fouls and technical fouls, or a loss of possession, for offensive fouls. In some cases, a penalty goal may be awarded in lieu of a penalty. Common fouls include spinning (striking an opponent’s wheelchair behind the main axle, causing it to spin horizontally or vertically), illegal use of hands or reaching in (striking an opponent with the arms or hands), and holding (holding or obstructing an opponent by grasping with the hands or arms, or falling onto them).
Wheelchair rugby games consist of four eight-minute quarters. If the game is tied at the end of regulation play, three-minute overtime periods are played.
Much like able-bodied rugby matches, highly competitive wheelchair rugby games are fluid and fast-moving, with possession switching back and forth between the teams while play continues. The game clock is stopped when a goal is scored, or in the event of a violation — such as the ball being played out of bounds — or a foul. Players may only be substituted during a stoppage in play.