Wheelchair basketball offers a wide array of physical and psychological benefits, from muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness, to alleviating anxiety and depression.

For those with disabilities who want to get involved in this positive team-based sport, we’ve put together a helpful beginner’s guide to wheelchair basketball rules so you’ll know what to expect before heading onto the court.

The Basics

The basic rules of wheelchair basketball are very similar to basketball that’s played on foot. For instance, in both formats of the game, the height of the basket and the measured distance to the foul line and three-point line are all the same. That’s not to say, however, that the rules of wheelchair basketball haven’t undergone some transformation over the years.

1964 was a milestone year for the sport, when the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) made some adjustments to the rules to better meet the needs of those playing the game in a wheelchair.

Keeping Score

Here’s how scoring points works in wheelchair basketball:

  • The team attacking the basket on offense scores two points when scoring a goal from the two-point field goal area.
  • One point is scored when a basket is made from the free-throw line.
  • When a goal is scored from the three-point line, it counts as three points.

These rules also apply to basketball that’s played on foot. The only difference in scoring for wheelchair basketball is that every team has 24 seconds to attempt to score a basket. If the team exceeds this time limit, they forfeit the ball to the opposing team.

Dribbling Rules

In wheelchair basketball, a player is allowed to wheel the chair and bounce the ball at the same time. If the ball is picked up and placed on the player’s lap, they can only push the wheelchair twice before they must shoot, pass, or dribble the ball again. If the player takes more than two pushes while in possession of the ball without dribbling, it’s a traveling violation.

See also:

  • There is no double dribble rule in wheelchair basketball.
  • Players are not allowed to touch the playing surface with their feet while in possession of the basketball.

Fouling Rules and More

In this version of basketball, a player’s chair is considered a part of their body, and this is taken into account with the rules of contact on the court, such as charging fouls, blocking, going out of bounds, etc.

Wheelchair basketball also has a few fouling rules in common with the non-adaptive version of the sport:

  • A player on offense cannot stay in the key area for more than three seconds.
  • Technical fouls, in addition to the same technicals as running basketball, can also be called when a player lifts their body out of their chair to gain advantage. Players must always remain firmly seated in their wheelchairs.
  • If a player falls out of their wheelchair, the referee may stop play if they think the player is at risk of being injured; if not, play will continue.
  • On inbound plays, offensive players are not allowed to enter the key until the ball is handed to the inbounding player by the referee.

What's the Difference Between Regular and Basketball Wheelchairs?

Basketball wheelchairs are custom-built to meet the specific needs of wheelchair basketball players, such as speed, maneuverability, stability, and durability. Compared to regular wheelchairs, basketball wheelchairs have a lower seat height, a longer wheelbase, an angled footrest, and a fifth wheel at the front of the chair to help with better movement and stability.

Wheelchair Basketball at Coastal Adaptive Sports

Based in the Myrtle Beach area, Coastal Adaptive Sports offers both casual and competitive wheelchair basketball leagues. Pickup games are weekly, with eight chairs available for loan to the public. The competitive Coastal Chairmen is a Division Three team that plays in the Carolina Conference of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

Learn more about the wheelchair basketball activities we offer at Coastal Adaptive Sports, and be sure to read our previous blog to learn all about the fascinating history of this popular sport!