Paralympic sports

The Paralympic Sports include all sports that were contested at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. The 2020 Summer Paralympics featured 22 sports and 539 medal events. The Winter Paralympics includes 5 sports and disciplines, and around 80 events. There may be a change in the number and types of events depending on which Paralympic Games they are being held.

Paralympic Games is an international multi-sport event that caters to athletes with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities. These include athletes with mobility impairments, blindness, blindness, cerebral palsy, and amputations. Paralympic sports are organized competitive sporting activities that are part of the global Paralympic movement. These sports are managed and organized under the supervision and control of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and other international federations.


Rehabilitation programs led to the development of organized sport for people with disabilities. Sport was established as an integral part of rehabilitation after World War II. It was created to meet the needs of many injured ex-service personnel and civilians. Sport as rehabilitation evolved into a recreational and competitive sport. Ludwig Guttmann, a Stoke Mandeville Hospital founder, was the first to use this method. He organized a competition for wheelchair-athletes at Stoke Mandeville in 1948, as the Olympic Games were taking place in London, England. This was the beginning of the Stoke Mandeville Games that evolved into the Paralympic Games.


The International Paralympic Committee, which oversees nine sports and is responsible for the Paralympic Games as well as other multi-sport, multidisability events, is globally recognized as the most important organization. The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, the International Blind Sports Federation, the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability, and the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association, (CP-ISRA), are some of the international organizations that govern certain sports for athletes with disabilities. These federations can be either an able-bodied federation like the International Federation for Equestrian Sports or a disabled federation like the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

At the national level, there is a variety of organizations that are responsible for Paralympic sport. These include National Paralympic Committees (citation required)

Different categories of disability

Cycling: Karissa Whitsell (pilot) and Mackenzie Woodring from the United States compete in Beijing 2008.

Biathlon: Andy Soule, from the United States at the 2010 Paralympics Vancouver.

Paralympic athletes are divided into ten categories based on the type of disability they have.

Physical Impairment There are eight types of physical impairments that can be recognized by the movement.

  • Impaired muscular power – In this category, muscle force, which is the force generated from muscles (e.g., muscles on one side or lower half of the body), is decreased. Spina bifida, polio or spinal-cord injury.
  • Impaired passive movement – The range of movement in one or several joints is decreased in a systematic manner. Acute conditions like arthritis are not included.
  • A loss of limb or limb defect – The total or partial disappearance of bones or joints due to partial or complete injury, trauma, or congenital (e.g. dysmelia).
  • Leg-length Difference – A significant reduction in bone density occurs in one leg after trauma or congenital deficiencies.
  • Short stature – A person with a short stature is one who has a shorter height. This can be caused by a lack of bone or cartilage structure in the musculoskeletal system.
  • Hypertonia is a condition where there is an abnormally high level of muscle tension and a reduced muscle’s ability to stretch. Hypertonia can be caused by injury, disease, or other conditions that cause damage to the central nervous systems (e.g. cerebral palsy).
  • Ataxia Ataxia refers to a condition that causes a loss of coordination in muscle movements (e.g. cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia).
  • Athetosis– Athetosis can be described as unbalanced and involuntary movements, as well difficulty maintaining a symmetrical position (e.g. Choreoathetosis, cerebral palsy.

Visual Impairment Athletes who have visual impairments that range from partial vision sufficient to make them legally blind to complete blindness. This refers to impairment of any component of the visual system, including eye structure, receptors and optic nerve pathway. Athletes with visual impairments and their sighted guides are so integral to the competition, they are considered part of a team. These guides, along with the sighted goalkeepers for 5-a-side football, became eligible for medals starting in 2012.

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Intellectual Disabilities – These are athletes with significant intellectual impairments and limited adaptive behavior. Although the IPC is primarily for athletes with physical disabilities and intellectual disability, some Paralympic Games have added Intellectual Disability to their roster. This excludes elite athletes with intellectual disabilities diagnosed prior to the age 18. The IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games can be accessed by all persons with intellectual disabilities.

Athletes are ranked according to their disability. This determines which sports they can participate in and against whom. Some sports allow multiple disabilities (e.g. Cycling is one of the most accessible sports, while others are only available to one disability category (e.g. Five-a-side football). Athletes from different sports compete in some sports, but only within their respective categories (e.g. Athletics, while athletes from other categories compete against each other (e.g. swimming). Paralympic events are often tagged with the appropriate disability category. For example, Men’s Swimming Freestyles S1 is for athletes with severe physical impairments. Ladies Table Tennis 11 is for athletes with intellectual disabilities.


Classification is a key component of Paralympic sport. The classification system allows athletes to compete against other athletes with similar disabilities and/or similar levels of physical function. It has a similar purpose to some other non-disabled sports’ weight classes and age categories.

There are many ways to classify athletes, depending on their disability and sport. A physical examination or medical exam may be required. Technical evaluations of the athletes’ performance in certain sports-related functions will also be performed. Each sport has its own classification system that is used to determine the rules of Olympic competition.

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