Physical Impairment

Athletes wishing to start competing in para sport are required to undergo classification to confirm eligibility and be allocated a class to compete according to their activity limitation.

As the impact of an impairment varies across sports, each International Sport Federation develops its own sport specific classification system. Eligible athletes with similar impairments are grouped together into sport classes through a physical and sport specific technical evaluation carried out by a group of classifiers. Within each class, athletes may look different from their competitors. This is because there can be different types of impairment in the same category. However, these different impairments affect sport performance to a similar extent.

 What physical impairments are considered eligible for Para Sport?
ImpairmentImpairment DescriptionExamples of an Underlying Health Condition that may lead to the impairment
Impaired muscle powerReduced force generated by the contraction of a muscle or muscle groupsSpinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome and spina bifida.
Impaired passive range of movementRestriction or a lack of passive movement in one or more jointsArthrogryposis and contracture resulting from chronic joint immobilisation or trauma affecting a joint
Limb deficiencyTotal or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of traumaTraumatic amputation, amputation due to bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (i.e. dysmelia)
Leg length differenceDifference in the length of the legs as a result of a disturbance of limb growth, or as a result of traumaLeg length difference greater than 7 cm
Short statureReduced length in the bones of the upper limbs, lower limbs and/or trunkAchondroplasia, growth hormone dysfunction, and osteogenesis imperfecta
HypertoniaIncrease in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch caused by damage to the central nervous systemCerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke
AtaxiaUncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system.Cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke and multiple sclerosis.
AthetosisContinual slow involuntary movements.Cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke
What sports offer competition opportunities for athletes with physical impairments?
AthleticsSitting Volleyball*
BocciaTable Tennis
EquestrianWheelchair Basketball
PowerliftingWheelchair Fencing*
RowingWheelchair Rugby

*Currently limited programs offered in Ireland

What are Minimum Impairment Criteria (MIC)?

Minimum impairment criteria describe how severe an impairment must be for an athlete to be considered eligible for a sport. Therefore, having an eligible impairment is not enough to compete in Para sport.

Classifiers evaluate athletes’ activity limitation through a sport and impairment specific physical and technical assessment to firstly ensure athletes meet the MIC. Athletes are then allocated a class to compete.

How to apply for national classification?

To be eligible to apply for national classification athletes must fulfil the sport specific criteria listed on each Para sport page (make it a link to Paralympic Summer Sports).

Athletes who fulfil the criteria should have the Medical Diagnostics Form completed and submitted to classification@paralympics.ie.

Athletes who do not meet the list of criteria above may still be evaluated by the classifiers by prior arrangement. However, he/she will only receive a provisional class in order to facilitate them to compete this year.

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