Paralympic athletes are grouped for competition according to the type and extent of their disability
Classification is a key part of Paralympic sport and aims to ensure fair competition for all. Rules of classification Each sport has its own set of classification rules, including criteria for what constitutes a “minimum disability”. Every athlete will be assessed to check the effect of his/her impairment and this will include physical, medical, sensory or cognitive testing (it may extend to observation of actual competition). Disability groups Athletes compete in Paralympic sport under six different groups: Spinal Cord Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Amputees, Vision Impairment, Intellectual Disability and Les Autres (an additional ”cover-all” group). Spinal Cord Injury The spinal cord, which travels from the brain through the backbone, is part of the central nervous system. An injury, illness or congenital condition can damage the spinal cord and cause paraplegia (paralysis of the lower limbs and all or part of the trunk) or quadriplegia (upper limbs are also affected). In sport, athletes are classified depending on the segment of the spine where the damage has occurred. Cerebral Palsy Cerebral Palsy is a condition in which muscle tone, reflex, posture or movement are affected due to damage to the brain. This condition can occur pre-birth, at birth or as a result of a stroke or head injury. In sport, athletes with cerebral palsy are classified into groups depending on the level of damage and muscle groups affected. Amputees Athletes with an amputation have at least one major joint or part of an extremity missing. This will be due to injury, illness or congenital reasons and might extend to upper/lower limb, single/double or above/below the elbow or knee. Where necessary, athletes in this category may use a wheelchair or artificial limb(s) to compete. Visual Impairment There are varying degrees of visual impairment and athletes are given a classification depending on the level of useful vision they possess. Intellectual Disability Intellectual disability refers to a cognitive impairment affecting brain function that result in a limited ability to cope and adapt. This impairment affects an individual’s ability to deal with challenges in everyday life. Les Autres This group of athletes has a range of conditions that result in physical impairments that do not fall into the other classification categories (e.g., Arthrogryposis). In most sports, this group of athletes competes within the other disability groups based on their sport-specific functional ability. You can find more information on classification within our sports overviews. lf you need anything more detailed, please contact our Programmes Coordinator, Naomi O’Reilly.