Chair Set-up & Accessories
Once you have your chair, setting it up properly for maximum comfort and performance is very important. It is a good idea to talk to your coach or players of similar function and ability who can share their insight and experiences about what type of chairs, strapping, set-ups and added features have worked best for them. Trial and error is often important at this stage, so keep playing with different set-ups until you find one that feels most suitable for you to maximize your playing abilities. No steering devices, brakes or gears are allowed on the wheelchair. It is also important to note the regulations for chair size and set-up specifications. For example, the maximum height to the top of the side seat rails from the floor, including the material that forms the seat of the wheelchair, must not exceed 53cm when the front castor(s) is in the forward driving position. Some of the other regulations are explained below but can all be found in the official IWBF rule book at www.iwbf.org.
Various types of straps are used to secure the athlete in the sport wheelchair, most commonly around the hips, knees and feet/ankles. Players add straps primarily for security to optimize their playing capacity. It is recommended that new players experiment with strapping and seat positioning in order to find the configuration which best meets their needs. Most straps add only safety and stability - not mobility. A strap is passive and will never substitute for a paralysed muscle or absent limb. Players with minimal or no disability also find it beneficial to strap into the wheelchairs and often use click-straps (or snowboard binders) to secure and maintain their desired body position in the wheelchair at the knees and/or waist. Players may use straps and supports that secure the body to the wheelchair, or straps that hold the legs together. Depending on your level of function or disability there are certain strapping set-ups that seem to work well for players so it is best to talk to players of similar function and size when determining your strapping needs. In addition to the click-straps, neoprene straps are generally available through your local wheelchair distributor.
Some players choose to use aluminum or plastic side guards on their wheelchair. Although this does add extra weight, the benefits of using the side guards are more important for some. Side guards must be permanently attached to the frame and cannot exceed the height of the wheel.
Seating position is very specific to each athlete and crucial to success in the sport of wheelchair basketball. When you purchase your first sport chair it is a very good idea to get a chair that is adjustable in order to allow you to try different seating positions. Adjustments to the cushion and upholstery can also be made to optimize seating position.
Seat Cushions and Padding:
Only one cushion is permitted on the seat of the wheelchair. The cushion must be of the same length and width as the seat of the wheelchair and no greater than 10cm in thickness (except for classes 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 where it may not exceed 5cm in thickness). The cushion must be of even thickness and not wedge-shaped. No board or rigid materials are allowed on the seat in addition to the cushion. There is no longer a requirement for the cushion to be sufficiently flexible such that it can be bent corner to corner. Therapeutic cushion exemptions are available to athletes with unique needs in this area. There must also be padding on the horizontal bar located at the back of the backrest of the wheelchair which must be of a minimum thickness of 1.5 cm (15mm).
A basketball wheelchair will have up to six wheels - i.e. two large wheels at the back and two small wheels at the front of the chair and either one or two anti-tip castors (or small rear wheels). The large wheels, including the tires, may have a maximum diameter of 69 cm. General sizes for these large wheels are 24, 25, or 26 inches. The size you choose for your chair will depend on specifications in your chair set-up such as seat height, your personal physical characteristics such as arm length for maximum pushing opportunity, and of course personal preference. The castors wheels can also range in diameter.