Wheelchair Football (American)

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Wheelchair Football
American Wheelchair Football.jpg
Boy playing on an American Wheelchair Football Team.
Highest governing body American Association of Adapted Sports Programs
First played Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Team members6 or more (6 at a time during game)
Mixed-sex Yes
Equipment Football, manual wheelchair, and power wheelchair

Wheelchair Football is a fast-paced sport that is best played when athletes are in maximum physical condition, and at the top of their game in teamwork, strategy and wheelchair-handling skills, for both manual wheelchair and power wheelchair users. In 2020, the USA Wheelchair Football League was launched by Move United, in partnership with the Bob Woodruff foundation and National Football League, and is launching in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Kansas City, Missouri. [1]



The sport of wheelchair football was developed by Professor Tim Nugent in 1948. The sport of wheelchair football was developed for interscholastic competition by the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP) of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to incorporate both the manual and power wheelchair during game play. Wheelchair football is patterned after American football, and is thus different from Powerchair Football or Wheelchair soccer (both adaptations of association football).

A competitive wheelchair football league for adults was developed in 2020 by Move United in partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation and National Football League. The USA Wheelchair Football League is open to adults with qualifying disabilities who play in a manual sport wheelchair.

Interscholastic Rules

The game of wheelchair football is played on a standard basketball court — 28 metres (92 ft) long by 15 metres (49 ft) wide. The required court markings are a center line and circle, and a key area measuring 8 metres (26 ft 3 in) wide by 1.75 metres (5 ft 9 in) deep at each end of the court. It can be played either indoors or outside, as long as it meets the standard requirements. [2] All athletes must use either a manual or a power wheelchair when competing in the sport.

Specified rules for manual and power wheelchair users

Players Using Manual WheelchairsPlayers Using Powerchair Wheelchairs
Manual Wheelchair Football Player.JPG

Players in manual chairs have successfully tackled an opponent when they tag the opponent with two hands on the body and above the knees.

Moterized Wheelchair Football Player.JPG

Players in power chairs will have made a successful tackle when they tag the opponent with one hand on the opponent’s body or chair.


Adaptive football players are classified into three different levels, and the rules of play are slightly different for each level.

The rules for Level 1 players are somewhat similar to "touch football," where players touch rather than tackle their opponents. In that adaptive game, the player - and not his or her chair - must be touched to count as a tackle. Players who have limited or no mobility in their arms use chair-to-chair contact for blocks and tackles. [3]


Level 1 players, kick offs, punts, runs, and goals are all scored using the hands. Level 2 and 3 players, points for pass completion are awarded if the ball hits the player in the area between the hands and their elbows.

Although the players cannot grab the football, they still need to maneuver their wheelchairs so they can be in the right position for the ball to hit the right place to score. [3]

Team rules

A team has six attempts to score once they receive the ball. Teams may pass or “run” the ball into the end zone. Field goals, kick–offs and punts are thrown. A running game clock (no time–outs for incomplete passes, etc.) is used, as well as a play clock. Scoring is the same as in stand–up football, with one exception. A team that passes for the point–after–touchdown (PAT) will receive two points. Field goals are scored when the ball is thrown through the first two vertical uprights that support the hanging basket.

Basic rundown of the sport

TeamNumber of playersKick offOffensePlay clockHalf time
Varsity teamsSix players per sidemade from behind the goal line4 downs to reach 1st marker or score35 secondsTwo 30-minute halves running clock
Junior varsity teamsSix players per sidemade from behind the first down marker4 downs to reach 1st marker or score45 secondsTwo 30-minute halves running clock

USA Wheelchair Football League [4]

The USA Wheelchair Football League plays on a field that is 60-yards long and 22-yards wide with an additional 8 yards at each end for end zones. The field can be indoor or outdoor, and shall be marked with lines every 15 yards crossing the length of the field, and a mark at the 3 yard line.

The game is played in four quarters of 15 minutes each with a running game clock and a 45 second play clock.

Tackling in the USA Wheelchair Football League is completed by placing one-hand above the waist of the ball carrier.

Player Qualification

Players must be 18+ by August 1 of the season, and have a permanent physical disability which consistently reduces the function of the lower limbs to a degree where they cannot run, pivot, block or tackle, at the speed and with the control, safety, stability and endurance required to play running football as an able bodied player.

Players are classified via a functional classification system, and will receive a classification point ranging from 1-4.5. A team consists of seven players on the field. A team may not have more than 21 classification points at the field at one time.


Scoring in the USA Wheelchair Football League is available via the following methods:

Touchdown: 6 points

Point After Touchdown: 1 point (passing play), 2 points (running play)

Safety: 2 points

Note, a field goal is NOT a scoring option in the USA Wheelchair Football League

Required Equipment


Move United has a formal coaches and officials program which covers Rules, Concussion and Safety Protocol, Setting up Practice Plans and Officials Roles and Signals. [5]

See also

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  1. "NFL helping launch of wheelchair football league at draft". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  2. "Wheelchair Football: World's Most Inclusive Sport" . Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  3. 1 2 3 "Wheelchair Football". mobility-advisor.com. Sowder Group LLC. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  4. "Wheelchair Football". Move United. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  5. "USA Wheelchair Football League Training - Registration". Move United. Retrieved 2020-07-10.