For most of them, one moment changed their lives forever. But one sport gives them a reason to keep going. The sport is called quad rugby. It’s original name was murderball because they said it looked like they were killing each other. I went ‘on the road’ to the North Texas Cowboys practice to get a look at the sport that is described as a cross between basketball, football and hockey.
The sport was developed in the late ’70s in Canada by several quadriplegic athletes who had played wheelchair basketball, but had been relegated to support players because of their quadriplegia. The new sport had similar rules — like having to bounce the ball once every 10 seconds and advancing the ball from the back court to the front court in 12 seconds. The one thing they didn’t have to do was shoot at a 10-foot tall basket. They set up a goal line, similar to hockey, and a player has to pass through the cones at the end line.
The part that all the players seem to enjoy the most — and what gave the game the name murderball — is the contact between wheelchairs. They use a special wheelchair designed to take hits and be a little more stable… although they end up tipping each other over several times in a game, as they ram their opponents as hard as they can with their wheelchair.
They say that injuries are just as common in quad rugby as any other sport. Every kind of injury you can imagine from broken bones to busted heads. One player told me he got a concussion at the nationals last year, and another had three ribs separated from his rib cage.
It’s an interesting sport to watch. It is very fast-paced and, just like in NASCAR, the collisions are a crowd pleaser. When someone hits the floor, they quickly upright the wheelchair and keep on playing.
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