Ready for Rio: Wheelchair Basketball, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Nov. 06, 2014, 3:51 p.m. (ET)

Paul Schulte
Three-time Paralympian Paul Schulte helped Team USA bring home a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The countdown continues! Only 671 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games begin. Key in on your wheelchair basketball knowledge with these 16 facts: 

1. Paralympic history
Wheelchair basketball was one of the eight Paralympic sports played at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960. Only four countries participated in the sport’s two medal events.

2. Classification
Wheelchair basketball consists of eight different classifications numbered 1.0 through 4.5. Higher numbers indicate an athlete with more ability. Athletes classified in the 4.5 class can perform basketball skills easier than athletes in the 1.0 classification.

3. Team USA
Since the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games, the U.S. has won 10 gold, two silver and seven bronze medals for wheelchair basketball for a total of 19 medals.

4. Women’s wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball first opened to women at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games. There were 95 women from nine different countries who competed, and the U.S. women’s team won the gold medal.

5. Equipment
Wheelchair basketball athletes are required to have a calf-strap on their chair in order to stop players from using their feet to control their chair. Wheelchairs can also have anti-tip casters, which are used to prevent the wheelchair from tipping over backwards.

6. Dribbling
Wheelchair basketball and able-bodied basketball are very similar; however, rules for dribbling are different. In wheelchair basketball, the ball must be dribbled at least once every two pushes of the wheelchair, otherwise the referee will call a traveling penalty.

7. The court
The court for wheelchair basketball measures the same as an able-bodied court. All lines within the court have the same rules, and scoring lines are worth the same amount of points.

8. Stay inside the lines
If a wheelchair basketball player has the ball and is touching or is outside of the court’s outer boundary lines with his or her body or wheelchair, then the player will be called out-of-bounds. If this happens, possession of the ball goes to the opposing team.

9. Falling out of a wheelchair
If a player falls out of his or her wheelchair during a game and is in the path of play, the referee will blow the whistle and pause the game. This allows the player to safely get back into his or her chair..

10. Losing possession
If a player with the ball touches the floor or leans back enough to the point that the wheelchair’s anti-tip casters touch the floor, the referee will award the ball to the opposing team.

11. Playing time
Wheelchair basketball is played for a total of 40 minutes, which is split into four 10-minute quarters. Teams have four timeouts per game.

12. Overtime
If a score is tied by the end of the regular 40-minute game, overtime will be issued. Overtime for wheelchair basketball lasts for five minutes. If the score is still tied by then end of the overtime, overtimes will be issued until one team scores more points.

13. History of wheelchair basketball
After World War II, many injured veterans took up wheelchair basketball thanks to Ludwig Guttmann’s rehabilitation program. The sport became very popular for veterans using wheelchairs and has continued to be a popular sport for even more athletes who use wheelchairs.

14. London 2012
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the Canada men’s team and the Germany women’s team both won a gold medal. Both teams took home silver medals at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

15. Team to watch
Canada has held the first or second place spot on the medal standings board for wheelchair basketball since the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. After winning a gold in London, the team now has a total of six gold medals for wheelchair basketball.

16. Where to watch in 2016
Wheelchair basketball will take place in Barra at Rio Olympic Park in the Rio Olympic Arena, which is being built specifically for the Rio 2016 Games. Following the Games, this venue will become part of the Brazilian Olympic Training Center. The arena will hold approximately 16,000 seats for spectators.

To learn more about wheelchair basketball, visit the National Wheelchair Basketball Association website and