Who needs to be classified?

  • Athletes competing in sports involving different weight divisions eg. weight lifting, boxing, martial arts.
  • Junior athletes, who are classified according to their age.
  • Athletes competing in sports where gender is separated eg. swimming, golf, tennis.
  • Athletes with a disability

Why classify Athletes with a disability?

Classification is aimed at making the competition as fair as possible for all competitors. The goal is to create a “level playing field”.

Different classification groups used

  • Athletes with a visual disability
  • Athletes with an intellectual disability
  • Athletes with a physical disability

Disabilities included in physical disability category

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Polio
  • Amputations
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Head injuries
  • Progressive disorders, eg. multiple sclerosis
  • Les autres ie achondroplasia, arthrogryposis
  • Any locomotor disability

The disability MUST be permanent and irreversible

Disabilities not included in the system

  • Transplants
  • Deaf
  • Visual impairment
  • Mental handicap
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy

History of classification in disabled sport

Each group had their own competitions and classification system:

  • CPISRA for cerebral palsy and head injuries
  • ISMWSF for spinal cord injuries
  • ISOD for orthopaedic conditions and amputees
  • IBSA for blind athletes

This resulted in lots of small competitions, with low numbers of entrants.
Competition was of a low standard and not very meaningful.

Development of a sport specific classification system

Emphasis has been taken away from the medical diagnosis, and placed directly onto function.
Athletes are put into classes according to their level of function, rather than according to their diagnosis.
Athletes are assessed using measures of:

  • Muscle strength
  • Range of joint movement (ROM)
  • Co-ordination
  • Amputation
  • Body height
  • Balance

The importance of these various factors will differ with each sport, thus classification becomes sport specific eg balance is much more important in lawn bowls than in swimming. The length of an amputated leg is more important in swimming, where no prosthesis is worn, than in lawn bowls, where the athlete wears a prosthesis.

In the sport specific classification system, a class will usually include a variety of different medical diagnoses.

Bowling functions Considered when classifying a bowler with a physical disability

  • Balance:
    Especially for the delivery of the jack and bowls.
  • Grip:
    Ability to hold a bowl and release the bowl during delivery.
    Some bowlers will need smaller bowls, or splints to assist with jack and/or bowl delivery.
  • Upper body strength:
    Bowlers with weakness in the upper body may not be able to play long ends and will need to play on a shortened rink.

With these functions identified, the system consistsof 4 classes, with a mixture of ambulant and wheelchair athletes in each.

Classes for bowlers with Physical disabilities are:

B5 – B8 with B8 class having the least impairment of function

(B1 – B4 classes are for bowlers with a Visual Impairment)

Minimal Disability

  • A bowler must have lost at least 10 points to be eligible for classification.
  • Bowlers are eligible to compete in IPC sanctioned events if they have a physical disability that causes or ought to cause a noticeable impairment of function while bowling.
  • Physical Disability is any birth defect, injury, surgery, or disease process, which causes a medically evident permanent impairment of physical function
  • Disability solely due to mental or psychological causes, or to disorders which could be corrected by the bowler, such as obesity, is not considered eligible for competition, even if it causes noticeable impairment of function while bowling

Bowler’s and NPC’s responsibility for classification

It is the bowler’s responsibility to be sure that they are properly classified before competing in an IBD sanctioned event,
They must either produce a current and valid classification card on registering for an event, or, if they have not been classified, be sure their name is on the schedule for classification at the event.
Bowlers with an R or an N status classification must also ensure that they are on the list to obtain a P classification by an International classifier.


N = new classification, not performed by an international classifier
R = review classification, for bowler’s whose condition is likely to change
      Eg multiple sclerosis
P = permanent classification, performed by an international classifier


Once a bowler has been classified by an International Classifier, a classification card will be posted out to him/her by the IBD Bowls Classifier.

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