Parapan Games Santiago 2023 – Categories

Parapan Games Santiago 2023 – Categories

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has established ten disability categories. Athletes are divided within each category according to their level of impairment, in a functional classification system which differs from sport to sport.

Categories

Impaired passive range of movement – Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced in a systematic way. Acute conditions such as arthritis are not included.

Loss of limb or limb deficiency – A total or partial absence of bones or joints from partial or total loss due to illness, trauma, or congenital limb deficiency

Leg-length difference – Significant bone shortening occurs in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.

Short stature – Standing height is reduced due to shortened legs, arms and trunk, which are due to a musculoskeletal deficit of bone or cartilage structures. (e.g. achondroplasia, growth hormone deficiency, osteogenesis imperfecta)

Hypertonia
Hypertonia is marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and reduced ability of a muscle to stretch. Hypertonia may result from injury, disease, or conditions which involve damage to the central nervous system (e.g. cerebral palsy).

Ataxia
Ataxia is an impairment that consists of a lack of coordination of muscle movements (e.g. cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia, multiple sclerosis).

Athetosis
Athetosis is generally characterized by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty maintaining a symmetrical posture (e.g. cerebral palsy, choreoathetosis).

Visual Impairment
Athletes with visual impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness. This includes impairment of one or more component of the visual system (eye structure, receptors, optic nerve pathway, and visual cortex). The sighted guides for athletes with a visual impairment are such a close and essential part of the competition that the athlete with visual impairment and the guide are considered a team. Beginning in 2012, these guides (along with sighted goalkeepers in 5-a-side football became eligible to receive medals of their own.

Intellectual Disability
Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behaviour. The IPC primarily serves athletes with physical disabilities, but the disability group Intellectual Disability has been added to some Paralympic Games. This includes only elite athletes with intellectual disabilities diagnosed before the age of 18. However, the IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games are open to all people with intellectual disabilities.

Classification system

Within the disability categories the athletes still need to be divided according to level of impairment. The classification systems differ from sport to sport and are intended to open up sports to as many athletes as possible who can participate in fair competitions against athletes with similar levels of ability. The biggest challenge in the classification system is how to account for the wide variety and severity of disabilities. Consequently, there is a range of impairment within most classifications .

Medical classification (until 1980s)
From its inception until the 1980s, the Paralympic system for classifying athletes consisted of a medical evaluation and diagnosis of impairment. An athlete’s medical condition was the only factor used to determine what class they competed in. For example, an athlete who had a spinal cord injury that resulted in lower limb paresis, would not compete in the same wheelchair race as an athlete with a double above-knee amputation. The fact that their disability caused the same impairment did not factor into classification determination, the only consideration was their medical diagnosis. It was not until views on disabled athletics shifted from just a form of rehabilitation to an end in itself, that the classification system changed from medical diagnosis to a focus on the functional abilities of the athlete.

Functional classification (since 1980s)
While there is no clear date when the shift occurred, a functional classification system became the norm for disabled athletic classification in the 1980s. In a functional system the focus is on what effect the athlete’s impairment has on his or her athletic performance. Under this system, athletes with total loss of function in their legs will compete together in most sports, because their functional loss is the same and the reason for the loss is immaterial. The only exception to the functional system is the classification format used by International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA), which still uses a medically based system.

Some sports are only held for certain disability types. For example, goalball is only for visually impaired athletes. The Paralympics recognizes three different grades of visual impairment, consequently all competitors in goalball must wear a visor or “black out mask” so that athletes with less visual impairment will not have an advantage. Other sports, like athletics, are open to athletes with a wide variety of impairments. In athletics participants are broken down into a range of classes based on the disability they have and then they are placed in a classification within that range based on their level of impairment. For example: classes 11–13 are for visually impaired athletes, which class they are in depends on their level of visual impairment. There are also team competitions such as wheelchair rugby. Members of the team are each given a point value based on their activity limitation. A lower score indicates a more severe activity limitation than a higher score. A team cannot have more than a certain maximum total of points on the field of play at the same time to ensure equal competition. For example, in wheelchair rugby the five players’ combined disability number must total no more than eight points.

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