Classification

Classification is not unique to disability sport and is simply a structure for competition. In mainstream sports such as boxing, weightlifting and judo athletes are categorised by weight classes. In disability sport athletes and players are grouped into classes determined by their degree impairment. Sport specific classifiers determine that an athlete is eligible and then allocate a sports class.

The International Paralympic committee (IPC) recognises six different disability groups. These are:

  • Amputees
  • Athletes with cerebral palsy
  • Blind or visually impaired athletes
  • Spinal cord injured athletes
  • Athletes with an intellectual/learning disability

Other athletes (les autres) with a physical disability who do not fit into any of the above five groups.

The British Paralympic Association and Home Country Associations (Scottish Disability Sport in Scotland) take the lead from the IPC in recognising eligible sports participants.

Each IPC sport has processes and procedures for classification which conform to guidelines laid down by the IPC. Each sport has a well trained international team of classifiers drawn largely from a medical, physiotherapy or sports technical background. Classifiers operate in panels of two/three and include a representative from each professional group within each panel.

An athlete’s class is determined by a physical and technical assessment and observation in and out of competition. Classification is an ongoing process. On entry to international competition new athletes will carry the status (N). Athletes whose classification is under review because their impairment is progressive or classifiers are still undecided will carry the status (R). Athletes whose class has been confirmed will have a status (C). Some athletes are reviewed over many years and athletes with the (C) status sometimes have their class reviewed if new information becomes available.

Classes are defined by each sport and form part of the sport rules. Individual sports have the responsibility for the education and training of classifiers. Classifiers are now largely sport specific whereas at one time they covered several sports.

At the Commonwealth Games there are events for elite athletes with a disability (EAD). Prior to each Games it is decided which sports will offer EAD events. In the major sports of swimming and athletics EAD athletes compete under their own IPC international class against the world record of that specific class. The athlete closest to the world record is judged the winner of the event.

At the Commonwealth Games there are events for elite athletes with a disability (EAD). Prior to each Games it is decided which sports will offer EAD events. In the major sports of swimming and athletics EAD athletes compete under their own IPC international class against the world record of that specific class. The athlete closest to the world record is judged the winner of the event.