UNITED STATES CEREBRAL PALSY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION.
Sports sanctioned by the USCPAA include athletics (track and field), boccia, cycling, equestrian events, indoor wheelchair soccer, powerlifting, soccer, and swimming. Their eight-level classification system is important in that it ensures, as much as possible, that their philosophy, equal opportunity for all, will be practiced, not just preached. This classification system is used in all individual sports, including track and field (athletics), swimming, cycling and cross-country--where athletes compete only against athletes with their same classification. In the remaining sports, athletes are grouped in divisions according to classification. Because this system is both crucial to understanding the competition system, and because it is updated frequently, it is printed here as a convenience for our readers.
Severe involvement in all four limbs. Limited trunk control. Unable to grasp a softball. Poor functional strength in upper extremities, often necessitating the use of an electric wheelchair for independence.
Severe to moderate quadriplegia, normally able to propel a wheelchair very slowly with arms or by pushing with feet. Poor functional strength and severe control problems in upper extremities.
Moderate quadriplegia, fair functional strength and moderate control problems in upper extremities and torso. Uses wheelchair.
Lower limbs have moderate to severe involvement. Good functional strength and minimal control problem in upper extremities and torso. Uses wheelchair.
Good functional strength and minimal control problems in upper extremities. May walk with or without assistive devices for ambulatory support.
Moderate to severe quadriplegia. Ambulates without walking aids. Less coordination. Balance problems when running or throwing. Has greater upper extremity involvement.
Moderate to minimal hemiplegia. Good functional ability in non-affected side. Walks/runs with noted limp.
Minimally affected. May have minimal coordination problems. Able to run and jump freely. Has good balance.
The Paralympic Games are the zenith of competition for elite athletes with physical disabilities. The fundamental philosophy guiding the Paralympic movement is that these world-class athletes should have opportunities and experiences equivalent to those afforded non-disabled athletes. In order to compete in the Paralympics, each athlete must meet strict qualifying standards and be selected to his or her national team. Athletes can qualify for the Paralympics by competing in events sanctioned by the USCPAA and performing up to the standards required, according to the event, their classification, age, and gender needed to make the U.S. team. For further information, visit USCPAA's web site.