In the Paralympic Games, people with different types of disabilities are able to participate. Currently, there are 10 types of impairments that make an athlete eligible for the Paralympic Games. The������������������������World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (2001, World Health Organization, Geneva) defines the following terms:
• Impaired muscle power
Impairments in this category have in common that there is reduced force generated by the contraction of a muscle or muscle groups (e.g. muscles of one limb, one side of the body, the lower half of the body). Examples of conditions included in this category are para and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post poliomyelitis, spina bifida.
• Impaired passive range of movement
Range of movement in one or more joint is reduced in a systematical way. Note that hypermobility of joints, joint instability (e.g. shoulder dislocation), and acute conditions of reduced range of movement (e.g. arthritis types of impairment) typically will be excluded as ‘eligible impairment’.
There is a total or partial absence of the bones or joints as a consequence of trauma (e.g. traumatic amputation), illness (e.g. bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (e.g. dysmelia)
•������Leg length difference
Due to congenital deficiency or trauma, bone shortening occurs in one leg.
• Short stature
Standing height is reduced due to aberrant dimensions of bones of upper and lower limbs or trunk (e.g. achondoplasia)
A condition marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch. Hypertonia may result from injury, disease, or conditions that involve damage to the central nervous system. When the injury occurs in children under the age of 2, the term cerebral palsy is often used, but it also can be due to brain injury (e.g. stroke, trauma) or multiple sclerosis.
Ataxia is a neurological sign and symptom that consists of a lack of co-ordination of muscle movements. When the injury occurs in children under the age of 2, the term cerebral palsy is often used, but it also can be due to brain injury (e.g. stroke, trauma) or multiple sclerosis.
Athetosis can vary from mild to severe motor dysfunction. It is generally characterized by unbalanced, involuntary movements of muscle tone and a difficulty maintaining a symmetrical posture. When the injury occurs in children under the age of 2, the term cerebral palsy is often used, but it also can be due to brain injury (e.g. stroke, trauma).
• Vision impairment
Vision is impacted by either an impairment of the eye structure, optical nerves or optical pathways, or visual cortex of the central brain.
• Intellectual Impairment
The Paralympic Movement identifies intellectual impairment as �����a disability characterized by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before the age of 18” (American Association on Intellectual and Development Disability, 2010). The diagnostics of intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior must be made using internationally recognized and professionally administered measures as recognized by INAS (International Federation for sport for para-athletes with an intellectual disability).
Having the following disability is a prerequisite, but not the sole requirement to qualify as a Paralympic athlete. Along with the disability, other factors considered include an examination to determine the extent of the disability, an allocation into a specific sport class, and an observation of the athlete on the field. Every Paralympic Sport has its own guidelines that show which impairment groups are eligible for its sport. Some sports such as Athletics and Swimming permit athletes of all impairment types to participate. However, others like Goalball and Boccia only offer its sport to one impairment type.
If an athlete is determined to be eligible, he or she is placed in a specific sport class. The sport class is determined by the degree of limitation the disability hampers the athlete. These classes help to ensure that the competition is fair and athletes are facing people of similar limitations.