What are Some Sports for Wheelchair Users?

Wheelchair sports have come a long way since the first organized sporting event for people with disabilities in 1948. From tennis and basketball, to rugby, and even surfing, there are now dozens of specialized sports that people who use wheelchairs can enjoy. Today, athletes who happen to have disabilities compete in both Olympic Games and professional leagues around the world.

This article will explore some of the most popular adaptive sports for wheelchair users, from their history to how they’ve been adapted for this unique group of athletes. We’ll look at each one individually, starting with tennis and ending with surfing. Along the way, we'll learn about some amazing records set by athletes with disabilities in these events, as well as some inspiring stories about overcoming adversity through sport.


Tennis is one of the oldest sports in the world and has been adapted to be wheelchair-friendly since the 1960s. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) established a Wheelchair Tennis Competition and Classification System in 1994, which allowed wheelchair athletes to compete at international tournaments with rules and regulations that applied equally to both able-bodied and disabled players.

The sport was included in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1988, with a mixed doubles event being added in 2004. Wheelchair tennis is now one of the most popular sports among Paralympic athletes and has seen some amazing records set by its competitors, including Esther Vergeer’s incredible 470 match unbeaten streak which lasted an astonishing 14 years!


Basketball is one of the few team sports that has been adapted for wheelchair users. The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) was founded in 1973 and established an official international competition system, allowing athletes with disabilities to compete at a professional level.

Wheelchair basketball was included in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1960, and today it's one of its most popular events.


Developed in Canada in the early 70s, wheelchair rugby is a fast-paced and physical sport that numerous disabled athletes have fallen in love with. It combines elements of wheelchair basketball, ice hockey, and handball, and has two teams of four players competing against each other.

Then, in 1993, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) was formed and held the first official international tournament the following year. Seven years later, It was included in the Paralympic Games for the first time, and Australian Harper Kemp had an incredible 83-point haul.


Surfing is relatively new in the world of wheelchair sports, but it has been gaining popularity of late. The International Surfing Association (ISA) introduced an adaptive surfing division in 2013, and they held the first official world championship in 2015.

It's now included in the Paralympic Games and has seen some remarkable performances. One of the most impressive of these is another Australian, Mark “Mono” Stewart, who in 2018 set a world record for the longest ride in 2018 with an unbelievably amazing 12-minute and 20-second wave.


The International Softball Federation (ISF) established the Wheelchair Softball Division in 1998 and the first official international competition was held in 2000. Since then, players have made a huge impression on fans with athletes like Pat Centeno nailing a record-breaking 10 home runs in a single game in 2018.


In 2012, FIFA (The International Federation of Associated Football) formed the Wheelchair Football Division. The following year, the first international tournament took place and since then, there have been some really impressive achievements.

In 2017, Japan’s Daisuke Ikezawa set a world record with an incredible 33-meter strike, the longest goal scored in wheelchair football. He's also the first athlete to have played both able-bodied and wheelchair soccer at a professional level.

For the 2021 season, Luciano Melo from Brazil became the first wheelchair soccer player to be signed by a major club when he joined São Paulo FC.

There are Even More Sports for Athletes with Disabilities

More and more athletes are competing in a wide variety of wheelchair sports. Bowling, weightlifting, fencing, and a whole lot more have been adapted, and as mentioned above, there have been some incredible achievements. With more opportunities arising every day, there are sure to be plenty of remarkable moments yet to come.

Introducing Coastal Adaptive Sports

Coastal Adaptive Sports is an organization for people with disabilities who want to play sports. We'll help you find competitions and events where you can show off your skills and talents and discover a whole new world of sports with a community that will support you every step of the way.

Contact us today to learn more!