Choosing a sports wheelchair

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When choosing a wheelchair for general mobility, users tend to consider the frequency of use, comfort, cost, maintenance, and repair, where it needs to travel, and whether it is for indoor use, outdoor use, or both, and how it can be transported prior to purchase.

Choosing a wheelchair for sports use requires other considerations to help people decide as the right specialised sports wheelchair can make it easier to play and enhance the user’s enjoyment of the sport. With this in mind, what are the key factors to consider?

  • There are many considerations to be made when choosing a wheelchair for general mobility.
  • Specialised wheelchairs are available for many sports which make the sport easier to play and enjoy.
  • What are the factors to consider when choosing a wheelchair for sport?

According to the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation,

‘Generally, the wheelchair sport you’re involved in will have a specific type of wheelchair associated with it. These wheelchairs will have been specifically developed to suit the different aspects of the sports they’re used for, such as: balance, weight, speed, strength, or safety.’

This means that wheelchairs for particular sports are likely to be purpose-built so while they are ideal for that sport, they lack the versatility necessary for all round or everyday use.

Clearly, for wheelchair users who take part in more than one sport, a dedicated wheelchair for each activity is likely to be prohibitively expensive. Consequently, some sports wheelchairs are designed to be multi-use enabling users to participate in different sports while some are designed to support both sports and lifestyle.

So, the key initially is to be very clear what the wheelchair is to be used for and not allow anything that doesn’t fulfil requirements onto the shortlist. But what other tips can help people make the best choice?

Whatever the sport involved, it is crucial that the wheelchair is set up suitably for the user’s height, width, and weight – including the weight of any equipment used to take part in the sport. It’s probably better to have a wheelchair with excess capacity than one that is right at its limit for the user. Similarly, it’s worth looking for the adjustability which enables the user to customise for height, width, weight, and body shape.

It’s also very important to fix a budget. There is little point spending time researching a particular model only to find that it is simply too costly. Sports wheelchairs can be expensive so it’s worth shopping around and deciding whether any preferred features are actually necessary and whether they offer value for money.

Of course, whether a multisport wheelchair would be suitable and cost-effective depends on the requirements of the different sports in which the user intends to participate. A keen basketball player will need a different type of wheelchair than a sprinter and it may be that only a specifically designed wheelchair is suitable for the user’s chosen sport. Whatever the sport, comfort is important so plenty of lightweight padding is essential.

Obviously, a key feature of a sports wheelchair must be manoeuvrability which will require a small turning circle and a low centre of gravity to avoid instability and allow for agile movement.

Given that sports wheelchairs can be expensive, and that they will be subject to intense wear and tear, the durability and robustness of different models is worth comparing. Strong frames and durable materials mean that the wheelchair is more likely to last. In addition, it’s worth considering whether the shortlisted wheelchairs are compatible with optional extras or future upgrades, and whether they can have damaged parts easily replaced.

Having narrowed the field, testing various different models is the ideal way to get the most compatible sports wheelchair for individual users and it’s worth looking at different manufacturers before making the final decision.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that whatever the choice of sports wheelchair, it will have to be transported to and from sporting events so it may be worth consulting a professional wheelchair accessible vehicle provider.