Wheelchair Basketball Competition & Rules

  • The wheelchair is considered part of the player’s body in relation to establishing responsibility for contact on court in the case of charging, blocking, going out of bounds, and other violations
  • A player can push their wheelchair and bounce the ball simultaneously; however, if the ball is picked up and/or placed on the players lap, the player is only allowed to push twice before they must shoot, pass, or dribble the ball again
  • “Travelling” in wheelchair basketball occurs when the athlete pushes his wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball. The player must pass, bounce, or shoot the ball before pushing the wheels again
  • There is no “double dribble” in wheelchair basketball
  • To deliberately push the ball with the wheelchair, kick or block it with any part of the leg or strike it with the fist is a violation
  • Dribbling consists of a player maintaining control of the ball while bouncing the ball. Players may dribble the ball while in motion or stationary. As long as two pushes are combined with one dribble, the player is considered to be dribbling legally
  • It is a violation if a player, in order to retrieve, shoot, or maintain the ball, leans forward or to the side so that any part of the wheelchair’s footrest or the player’s feet touch the floor
  • The distance a player coasts between pushes is not restricted
 Competition Models

Single School Model

This model opens participation up to any student within the school. With this model both the student with the disability and his or her peers can participate on the same team and enjoy the benefits of wheelchair basketball. Care must be taken in this model to ensure proper participation of students with disabilities such that their peers without disabilities do not take the opportunities away from those students with a disability. This model is employed at the community level in numerous countries such as Canada, Germany, and Australia.

Sample Integrated Competition

Wheelchair basketball in the middle, junior and high school settings can be organized as an inclusive sport that offers the ability for students with and without disabilities to participate in the world’s most popular Paralympic sport. As a proposed model for the school setting, this approach allows a school with a limited number of students with a physical disability to offer a team sport that any student can enjoy. However, schools and states who offer wheelchair basketball at the interscholastic level will want to adhere to standardized rules so teams can compete on a state-wide level in regular and post season competition.  For example, the Georgia high School Association utilizes this approach and it is cost effective, reasonable, and compliant with the OCR guidelines.

In this model, in order to achieve an appropriate number of participants, wheelchair basketball teams are comprised of students from across the school district that have a qualifying physical disability. Students without disabilities compete alongside their peers with qualifying disabilities in order to have enough players for competition. Wheelchair basketball can be offered in a variety of models so that a school district may be able to complement a model that works best with their resources and student population.

District Wide Model I

Within this model, team members are comprised of students from elementary, middle, and high schools in a particular district. The school district selects a centralized, accessible venue for the teams to hold their practices and home contests. Depending on the number of eligible students, districts may elect to field more than one team. Teams are co-ed and grouped by ability level. Wheelchair basketball is offered during the winter season. All students participate in a wheelchair, whether they used one on a daily basis or not. This helps to level the playing field and engages more students with physical disabilities in athletics. School district teams participate in either a junior varsity or varsity division and compete against other school district teams from around the state in regular season competitions and state championship events. Due to the fact that disability sport exists at the international and national level, it is reasonable to add adapted sport programs to the existing school districts’ extracurricular athletic offerings without creating an undue administrative burden or requiring changes to existing rules for non-disabled student athletes. Participating students are required to maintain passing grades or adhere to their IEP goals and have an annual physical on file.


Similar to the single school model, an intramural program can be enjoyed by all students without the added cost of coaches and travel. This model has been implemented at Georgia Southern University and has enjoyed tremendous success.

District Wide Model II

Teams are placed in either varsity or junior varsity divisions with input from the coordinator and coaches. This placement is based on many factors, a few being the teams overall experience, years of play, and the functional ability of the individual players. Provisions to this structure may be utilized in agreement with the schools’ Area Coordinators if it is in the best interest of the teams to do so. For example, participating school districts may elect to adopt a regional format for competitions prior to any given season and either keep the varsity and junior varsity divisions intact or eliminate them altogether for that particular season while utilizing one set of rules. Team placement and formats will be determined in cooperation with the Area Coordinators prior to each season. All teams in each of the adapted sports are co-ed and will be referred to as co-opt teams. It is suggested that schools be limited to the number of teams in a sport it can field and the number of players on each team. Certain policies and procedures exist to ensure equitable and fair play.


A “cross-disability” model, allows for the maximum participation by those with physical disabilities attending the local school. Students who have an orthopedic impairment as a primary disability (either acquired or congenital) as defined by  Federal law (IDEA) whether fully mainstreamed, partially mainstreamed or attending special education classes and whose primary disability is physical are eligible to participate. These students are not eligible for Special Olympics because they do not have intellectual disabilities. Students who are mainstreamed must adhere to the no-pass/no-play policy, adopted from the State High School Association policy. Special Education students must adhere to their IEP goals. Students who participate must, at a minimum, have the maturity and ability to understand strategy and to apply standards employed for their safety. From time to time, a student’s involvement in the program may be found to be inappropriate if he/she lacks the ability to benefit from the program or if there are safety concerns. When the coach or coordinator raises concerns of this type, they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis with the parents’ input and involvement.

As a point of clarification, students served through adaptive sports organizations are not eligible for Special Olympics because their functional limitations are based solely on a non-physical disability. Special Education students who are over the age of 18 yet still enrolled in 12th grade are eligible to participate. Upon graduation from 12th grade, the student is no longer eligible to participate.

Suggested Policy for Non-Disabled

Include students without disabilities only when necessary to round out a roster and have enough players to field a team. A team which is short by one or two eligible players may add one or two able-bodied (AB) players to their roster. A team may not add more than two AB players to their roster and may do so only in the circumstance of the team not having enough players with physical disabilities to complete the required minimum number needed to field a team. For example, the minimum number required to play wheelchair basketball is five players and a team only has three eligible players then they may elect to roster two AB players to complete the requirement for participation. If the team has four players then they would be allowed to roster one AB player. The AB player(s) can only be added to the team roster at the beginning of the season during the registration period and must follow the required registration procedure as the rest of the team. These AB players may be a sibling or friend of one of the team members. The AB player’s are required to compete in a wheelchair and must wear a scrimmage vest over their team jersey so that the officials can identify them as an AB player. The AB player(s) may not score. When the AB player is defending an offensive player who has control of the ball, the AB player may only defend the offensive player or take/slap the ball off the lap of the offensive player. If the offensive player loses possession of the ball (example: pass, dropped ball, shot) then the AB player can make an attempt to obtain the ball. An AB player who violates their restrictions by attempting to score or does not guard a player on a “vertical plane” will be assessed and administered a Physical Advantage Foul (PAF). PAF’s are ruled a technical foul. They count toward that player’s and the team’s foul count. When playing basketball, the opposing team will be awarded two foul shots and receive possession at half court to inbound. If an AB player scores, the score will be annulled. If an AB player is awarded a foul shot, the head coach will designate a teammate who was on the floor at the time the foul was committed to take the shot. An AB player is also never allowed to line the lane on a free throw attempt. They must check back behind the three-point line. Any player receiving two technical fouls will be eliminated from the game.


Time Limits

  • An offensive player cannot remain more than 3 seconds in the free throw lane while the player’s team is in possession of the ball
  • If the offensive player is trapped in the lane and attempting to leave the lane, the 3 second count will cease and a violation will not be called as long as the player exits the lane as soon as it is possible
  • If the trapped player is in the lane for more than three seconds and chooses to become an offensive threat by calling for a pass then the 3 second violation will be called
  • If a shot attempt is made by another player, the player trapped in the lane may rebound the ball without a 3 second violation be called


  • A player in possession of the ball may not push more than twice in succession with one or both hands in either direction without dribbling the ball to the floor again
  • Taking more than two consecutive pushes constitutes a traveling violation
  • A player may wheel the chair and bounce the ball simultaneously just as a non-disabled player runs and bounces the ball simultaneously in stand up basketball 
  • There is NO double dribble violation in wheelchair basketball

Loss of the Ball

  • If a player in possession of the ball makes any physical (bodily) contact with the floor or tilts the chair so far forward that the footplate or wing touch the floor, it is a violation and the ball is awarded to the other team


  • A player is considered out-of-bounds when any part of the player’s body or wheelchair touches the floor on or beyond the boundary

Physical Advantage Foul (PAF)

  • Because of the varying causes and manifestations (degrees) of disability among participants, a basic rule of keeping firmly seated in the wheelchair at all times and not using a functional leg or leg stump to gain a physical advantage over an opponent is strictly enforced. An infraction of this rule  constitutes a physical advantage foul (PAF)
  • Examples of a PAF include lifting the buttocks off of the chair seat to rebound, shoot, block a shot, pass, or to tap a jump ball, using a foot in contact with the floor to stop/move the chair, or to use a lower limb to manipulate the rear wheels
  • The foul is so recorded in the official scorebook
  • Three such fouls disqualify a player from the game
  • Two free throws are awarded and the ball is given to the opposing team, out of bounds


  • If a player falls out of the chair during play, the officials will immediately suspend play IF there is any chance of danger to the fallen player. If not, the officials will withhold their whistles until the particular play in progress has been completed
  • If a player falls out of the chair to gain possession of the ball or, by falling, keeps opponents from gaining possession of the ball, the ball is awarded to the opposing team


  • For free throw and 3-point shooting attempts, the shooter need only have their REAR wheels behind the shooting line
  • It is also allowed for the shooters front caster to cross the line
  • For free throws, players lined up in the blocks must have the whole chair behind the lane lines


  • A functional classification system and point system to maintain fair play is utilized nationally and internationally.  It is not recommended that a classification system be used in the school setting at this time
  • Rather, each state should incorporate their own rules to ensure that students with physical disabilities are provided adequate opportunity to play in competition settings.
Coaching cues

Cues are used in order to promote consistent and concise communication and action throughout the sport. The following cues should be learned and taught with no deviation so as to allow a student-athlete to participate in a community program or transition to a collegiate program with little to no need to learn new cue words and actions.

Defensive Cues

  • Anticipate the hook: an illegal move to “hook” the chair of the defender when setting a pick rendering the defender unable to successfully move the chair
  • Axle to caster: Defensive position where the defender positions the axle of the rear wheel in line with the front cast of the offensive person being guarded
  • Ball: The defense has secured the ball, cue to begin transition
  • Close space: Using controlled, quick movement, reduce the amount of space between the defender and person being guarded
  • Communicate an action: When communicating with a teammate, use clear, consistent terms that communicate what you want them to do; pass, shoot, pick, stop, help, switch, etc.
  • Head on a swivel: Always check your shoulders and know where the ball, your teammates and the opposing threats are on the court at all times
  • Identifying threats: At all times know who the threats are and where they are on the court
  • Shot: Vocally challenge the shot, notify teammates a shot has gone up, cue to block out, find the ball, secure the rebound

Offensive Cues

  • Create space: Utilize movement to maintain balance and spacing
  • Engage the defense: At all times keep the person defending you engaged and focused on your movements or potential movements. This reduces the ability of the defense to help another defender stop a threat
  • Hand Fake: Utilize the hands to make the defense commit to an action. Often accomplished by faking a pushing movement and simply letting the hands glide across the top of the wheel without moving the wheel
  • Pass to a skill: The receiver must catch the ball in a position that allows them to shoot, pass, or dribble
  • Shoulder fake: Utilize the shoulders/upper body to make the defense commit to an action
  • Turn backs/attack backs:  Utilize space, movement, picks, and one on one moves to turn the backs of the defense. When an offensive player sees the back of a defender, it is a cue to attack that position

Transition Cues

  • Be a threat: Always be moving and in position to shoot, pass, dribble, attack the basket
  • Cross, stop and roll:Using the crossing action in transition to set up a pick. The pick is performed with a brief stop that makes the defense cease movement and then the picker immediately rolls back into the transition attaining top speed as quickly as possible. 
  • Outlet: Vocally communicate a passing lane to begin transition. 
  • Push hard: Always 100% effort.
  • Sideline to Sideline: Utilize the crossing movements to create space, picking angles, back picks, and mismatches
  • Space and movement: The offense should be evenly spaced and balanced in transition utilizing the necessary lanes for the number of attackers and crossing as appropriate to create picks and mismatches 
  • Read and release: Attempt to block out and read these cues for offensive transition:
    • Defending an attempted 3 point shot: challenge the shot and go to an outlet lane for offensive transition
    • Entire offense under free-throw line extended: prone to allow transition basket, person nearest half court will immediately release to defensive end
    • No position for rebound: become a threat by moving to an outlet position
    • Release to outer thirds, never middle, especially lower classes: Allows receiver to move in towards passes rather than making over the shoulder catches


Guideline Table of Contents
Training and Equipment

FAQs & Resources


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: