Classification is a structure for competition and is one of biggest differences between the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Paralympic athletes have an impairment in body structures and functions that lead to a competitive disadvantage in sport. Consequently, criteria is put in place to ensure that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for athletes who are able-bodied. Classification is the process by which athletes are assessed to determine the impact their impairment has on their ability to compete in a specific sport.
The Paralympic Movement offers sport opportunities for athletes that have an impairment that belongs to one of the ten eligible impairment types identified in the “Policy on Eligible Impairments in the Paralympic Movement.” This is found under section 2 chapter 3.13 of the IPC Handbook. Those eligible impairments are described below:
Impaired Muscle Power
Athletes with Impaired Muscle Power have a health condition that either reduces or eliminates their ability to voluntarily contract their muscles in order to move or to generate force.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Impaired Muscle Power include spinal cord injury (complete or incomplete, tetra- or paraplegia or paraparesis), muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome and spina bifida.
Impaired Passive Range of Movement (ROM)
Athletes with Impaired Passive Range of Movement have a restriction or a lack of passive movement in one or more joints.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Impaired Passive Range of Movement include throgryposis and contracture resulting from chronic joint immobilization or trauma affecting a joint.
Athletes with Limb Deficiency have total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma (for example traumatic amputation), illness (for example amputation due to bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (for example dysmelia).
Leg Length Difference
Athletes with Leg Length Difference have a difference in the length of their legs as a result of a disturbance of limb growth, or as a result of trauma.
Athletes with Short Stature will have a reduced length in the bones of the upper limbs, lower limbs an/or trunk.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Short Stature include achondroplasia, growth hormone dysfunction, and osteogenesis imperfecta.
Athletes with Hypertonia have an increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch caused by damage to the central nervous system.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Hypertonia include cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke.
Athletes with Ataxia have uncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Ataxia include cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke and multiple sclerosis.
Athletes with Athetosis have continual slow involuntary movements.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Athetosis include cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke.
Athletes with Vision Impairment have reduced or no vision caused by damage to the eye structure, optical nerves or optical pathways, or visual cortex of the brain.
Examples of an underlying health condition that can lead to Vision Impairment include retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy.
Athletes with an intellectual Impairment have a restriction in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior in which affects conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills required for everyday life. This Impairment must be present before the age of 18.
For more information on Intellectual Impairments, please visit http://www.athleteswithoutlimits.org/eligibility.