Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic BocciaMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Boccia

Boccia

Boccia (BOCH-ə) is a precision ball sport, similar to bocce, in which players roll heavy balls as close as possible to a target. The earliest record of boccia is from several centuries B.C., when it was played using stones. Though it wasn’t adapted for people with impairments until the 1970s, it is now one of the world’s fastest growing sports for severely impaired persons. Loved for its flexibility, boccia can be played individually, in pairs or in teams of three. No matter how many players, the game is all about coordination, accuracy, concentration and strategy.

Boccia is played on a flat, smooth court, and players attempt to get their boccia balls closer to the jack (target) ball than their opponent(s) by throwing, kicking or using an assistant and ramp. The more balls a player has closer to the jack ball than the next closest opponent ball, the more points they score. An end, or round, is over once all balls have been played by both sides.

 

TIMELINE:

1970s
Boccia adapted for people with disabilities

1984
Boccia introduced at the Paralympic Games in New York

2012
104 athletes competed in seven medal events at the Paralympic Games in London

EVENTS

Events are mixed gender and feature three types of competition: individual, pair and team. In individual and pair competitions, athletes play four ends; in team competitions, they play six ends. Players alternate who starts each end.

In an individual match, each player throws six balls per end. In pairs, each player throws three balls. In team competitions, designed for teams of three athletes, each player throws two balls per end.

EQUIPMENT

The game is played using 12 boccia balls, six red and six blue, and a white jack ball used as the target. Each ball weighs about 275 grams (10 ounces) and has a circumference of roughly 270 millimeters (11 inches).

BC3 players with severe arm impairments may use an assistive device such as a chute or ramp to guide the balls. These athletes use pointers—a rod attached to his or her head—to release the ball down the assistive device.

The boccia court is made of smooth, flat concrete, wood, or natural or synthetic rubber and runs 12.5 meters (41 feet) long by 6 meters (20 feet) wide.

FAST FACTS

Translation, please: The name boccia is derived from the Latin word bottia, meaning “boss.”

Paralympians only: Boccia is one of only two Paralympic sports that have no Olympic counterpart.

All quiet on the sidelines: Much like in tennis and goalball, spectators and team members not in competition are expected to remain quiet while the game is played.

What’s your impairment? Though boccia was originally introduced as a sport for athletes with cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system., it is now open to male and female athletes with severe locomotor disabilities of a cerebral or non-cerebral origin, including individuals with cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system., stroke, traumatic brain injury, high-level spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophyDefinition: A group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass., multiple sclerosisDefinition: A disease of the brain and spinal cord where the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, causing communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Commonly called MS., amyotrophic lateral sclerosisDefinition: Neurological disease that attacks nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and arthrogryposisDefinition: A birth defect characterized by joint contractures, meaning a person.

Athlete Spotlight:

Austin Hanson

Austin Hanson went into cardiac arrest just hours after being born in Topeka, Kansas, where he still lives today. Doctors were performing corrective surgery on his esophagus and trachea when his heart stopped, rendering him quadriplegicDefinition: A person with a permanent condition in which he or she may be unable to move or feel both legs and/or the trunk and/or the arms, usually due to disease or injury of the spinal cord; also called <i>tetraplegic</i>. and non-verbal with severe cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system.. He has since endured 48 surgeries and multiple physical and social challenges—but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming the most decorated BC3 boccia player in U.S. history.

Hanson started playing boccia when he was 12 and has now been training with his coach and father, Gary, for 21 years. Gary acts as his son's sport assistant—a role unique to BC3 ramp athletes. The two have developed a complex non-verbal language of nods and glances so that Gary can move and extend the ramp exactly how Hanson wishes. One minor miscommunication could mean losing a game, and with only about 45 seconds to prepare for each launch, it can get pretty stressful.

But their method must work. Hanson has represented Team USA at the 1996, 2004 and 2012 Paralympic Games. He made it to the quarterfinals at both the 1996 and 2004 Games, and he has won multiple U.S. Championships. Hanson is thrilled with his successes, but he still has one outstanding goal: to be atop the podium and hear his country’s national anthem.

Althete Spotlight Austin Hanson

CLASSIFICATION

Paralympic boccia competition is open to male and female athletes with physical impairments.

Note: The models presented below are examples. A classification evaluation must be performed to determine an athlete’s sport class(es).

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

All Paralympic boccia players compete in wheelchairs due to loss of leg function and trunk stability. The athletes compete in one of four sport classes, BC1–4, depending on the details of their impairment.

BC1

BC2

BC3

BC4

BC1

BC1 boccia athletes are able to grasp and throw the ball without assistive devices, and those with some leg control may propel the ball with their feet.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional
 Competes in
Wheelchair

BC2

BC2 boccia players have more arm function and trunk control than those in BC1 and BC3 sport classes. This functionality enables them to throw the ball overhand and underhand using a variety of grasps.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional
 Competes in
Wheelchair

BC3

Boccia players in sport class BC3 have significantly limited function throughout their body, with little to no trunk control. These athletes use a ramp and other assistive devices to roll the ball onto the court.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional
 Competes in
Wheelchair

BC4

Boccia athletes who compete in sport class BC4 have impairments with no cerebral origin; examples include athletes with muscular dystrophyDefinition: A group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass., spinal cord injuries or amputationsDefinition: Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body. affecting all four limbs. These athletes usually use a pendulum swing to propel the ball and a glove to sustain their grip on the ball.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional
 Competes in
Wheelchair