At one time, wheelchair sports were about… well… wheelchairs. However, today, while you may require specialized equipment, adaptive sports are more about inclusion than wheelchairs.
Nowadays, while formal wheelchair-based sports competition remain, the recreational market is where most of us enjoy adaptive sports, whether it’s a hand-cycle to ride with our children or a tennis chair to hit the court with our spouse. So, let’s look at what’s hot, from a pick-up B-ball game in the park to road racing.
Playing tennis while using a wheelchair is a fantastic sport – and workout. Whether you play against another wheeler or an able-bodied opponent, tennis is a remarkably equalizing sport. In fact, tennis is so adaptable to those using wheelchairs, there’s only one rule change: wheelers are allowed two bounces of the ball before the return. Other than the “two-bounce” rule, tennis is game-on for all on the court. What’s also great about tennis is that to start, you don’t need to invest in a court chair – simply grab a racket and ball, roll out onto a local court and see how you like it. Interestingly, among some of the top wheelchair tennis pros over the years have been those using power chairs, so tennis is open to a vast range of disabilities.
Basketball is another great pick-up game, whether shooting hoops with your kids in the drive way, joining a game in the park with friends from the neighborhood, or participating in an all-wheelchair league. Grab a ball, find a hoop, and see if you’re the next “Chair Jordan!”
When it comes to getting more serious about playing tennis, basketball, or both, you have several wheelchair options. If only one sport is your passion, invest in a tennis- or basketball-specific chair. With a wheelchair designed for your sport, it will up your game and your fun. However, if you find you enjoy multiple court sports, invest in an “all-court” chair – it’s one chair designed to go from sport to sport remarkably well.
If you have the need for speed, handcycling may be just the right sport for you. From recreational upright seating positions to aerodynamic, reclined positions, there’s a handcycle to get you where you want to go in real speed.
The beauty of handcycling, based on gearing and ergonomic propulsion, is that it allows you to keep up with your friends riding bicycles.
Handcycles are also a fantastic way to move from traditional adaptive sports to a more speed-based activity. For beginners and those more comfortable in a conventional seated position, an upright handcycle is a great choice. For those who are more experienced – and looking for maximum speed! – a reclined handcycle is the way to go. No matter which handcycle style you choose, it’s a fantastic way to get out and cruise your local bike paths while getting an awesome upper-body workout.
There is an eloquence to pushing a racing chair that really connects a wheelchair user with the asphalt buzzing beneath.
For purists looking to get into the world of “running,” racing chairs are a lot of fun and a fantastic workout. Every organized running race in the country allows those using racing chairs to participate, so it’s a tremendous way to get involved in your local community’s athletic events. Racing wheelchairs are available in several seating positions, including upright and kneeling. For recreational use, an upright position is typically used, while more advanced racers use a kneeling position for aerodynamics. Racing chairs don’t have the type of gearing or ergonomic propulsion advantages as a handcycle, so they can be a little more challenging in longer distances. However, again many like the simplicity of a racing chair and its connection to the mainstream running world.
Get Out There!
Of course adaptive sports can really mean any sport nowadays – from a racing chair to rock climbing. However, no matter which adaptive sport you choose, the most important part is that you get out there, have fun, and give it everything you’ve got!