The Paralympic movement has seen a huge surge in popularity worldwide in the wake of the London 2012 Olympics. You might fancy trying your hand at a wheelchair sport too; but what’s the difference between a regular wheelchair and one that’s specifically designed for sports, and how do you choose the right one for you?
What makes a sports wheelchair different?
Sports chairs are generally lighter and more streamlined than regular ones. In order to increase stability they’re usually non-folding and have a pronounced angle for the wheels. Most users reserve their sports chair for that particular activity, although some prefer to use their sports chair every day.
When choosing a chair for sport, it’s very important to get the seat height right. This will affect the chair’s handling and its safety. Sports-specific seat cushions are recommended, too.
Who should you ask for advice?
If you belong to a club, have a chat with your coaches. They’ll be able to recommend the features you should look out for in a chair that will suit you best and might even improve your game. It’s worth taking an expert with you when you go shopping for sports chairs. Sometimes it’s possible to obtain discounts on equipment if your club belongs to a particular league or association.
What questions should you ask when buying a sports wheelchair?
When you’re looking for a wheelchair for use when playing a particular sport, there are specific questions you need to ask before committing to making a purchase.
First of all, ask if the chair is suitable for the sport you’re intending to play in it. Is it fast enough, manoeuvrable enough, light enough, robust enough etc?
Make sure the chair is the right size for you. Check out the seat depth, width and height – it’s essential that you’re comfortable and seated correctly for maximum comfort and performance. Always choose a seat cushion that’s going to perform. Look for a material that won’t make you sweat too much and that can be easily wiped clean after use.
Ask if the chair is adjustable, particularly in the case of young athletes who might outgrow their chair. It may be possible to upgrade the chair using different wheels or better castors and you need to ask about this. Moving the chair comfortably and easily is crucial in all wheelchair sports. Have a good look at the push-rims and make sure you’re confident that you can move around easily.
An important consideration is whether the chair conforms to the specific regulations set out by your chosen sport’s governing body. You must double check this before you part with any cash. There’s no point in investing in a chair only to find that you can’t ‘legally’ use it for your chosen sport.
There are many things to be taken into consideration when choosing a suitable wheelchair in which to play your chosen sport. Always ask the advice of your sports club or coach, and never rush into buying an expensive chair until you’re absolutely sure it’s right for the job.
Image source: burke.org