You may not be aware of it, but outside the rugby league players that in local parks, in schools and professionally in sports, there is the Wheelchair Rugby League.

As suppliers of pressure and impact protection Dimensional Pads to Paralympians, Gel Ovations Sports brings you our latest insight into the sports we love and support. This is why we are keen to spread the word about this great form of rugby and the exciting World Cup taking place later this year.

Understanding the history behind wheelchair sports is one thing, but the Wheelchair Rugby League is one of the most popular disability sports around!

Learning about how it all came about is important before you choose to go and support the athletes taking part in the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup in 2021.

What Is Wheelchair Rugby & Where Did It Come From?

Did you know that wheelchair rugby used to be known as Murderball? In the US, it’s referred to as quad rugby, but it all comes to the same thing: it’s a team sport for athletes in wheelchairs who have a disability.

Members of the England Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup

Members of the England Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup

Over 25 different countries around the world practice it and it predominantly features in the Summer Paralympics. To be able to play in wheelchair rugby leagues in the US, players have to have a loss of function in at least three limbs (hence the name quad rugby). However, it’s not the same as other countries.

Most players who are taking part in the Wheelchair Rugby League qualify through amputation, neurological and other conditions.

Players are given a point score to show their ability to function and each team is limited to a total of eight points in the game. Played indoors, the Wheelchair Rugby League requires physical contact between chairs as part of the game. The Wheelchair Rugby League is governed by the IWRF (International Wheelchair Rugby Federation), and it was established in 1993.

Back in 1976, wheelchair rugby was started by five Canadian athletes. It was always the common sport was basketball for those in wheelchairs, but because basketball excluded those with quadriplegia as they couldn’t dribble or shoot baskets, Murderball was born.

Wales Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021

Wales Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021

Of course, that’s been rebranded over the years and those who have functional impairments to upper and lower limbs can now take part in a new sport. Parasports have become even more inclusive over the years, which is fantastic news for sports enthusiasts who are keen to compete.

Wheelchair Rugby League is known to be a pretty aggressive and brutal sport, and this is due to the full contact nature of the sport itself. It’s been designed to allow athletes of all functional abilities to play both defensive and offensive roles, and that’s perfect for those who would like to improve their athletic sporting range.

The game was introduced in the US in 1972, and the first competition in North America was held in 1982. It’s not just an English or American sport, though! Murderball was introduced in Australia in 1982, and after receiving very limited instructions on the game, a competition began in England between the Canadians and the Australians. Australia won, and it’s been brought back to Australia since then.

It wasn’t until the late 80s that the sport was renamed as Wheelchair Rugby – “Murderball” was a little much for some! People now prefer it to be Quad Rugby and Wheelchair Rugby and the league was then born.

The Birth of The Wheelchair Rugby League 

The very first international tournament was held in Canada in 1989. The competing teams being from Canada, North America and Britain. In 1990, the International Stoke Mandeville Games featured Wheelchair Rugby as an exhibition event, and it was recognised as an international sport.

USA team, Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021

USA team, Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021

The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation also established itself as the governing body of the sport in the same year. It wasn’t until 1995 that the first IWRF World Wheelchair Rugby Championship was held in Switzerland, and it has grown in popularity since then.

The 1996 Paralympics featured wheelchair rugby as a demonstration sport in Atlanta, and that’s where it really expanded. The sport has been included as having full medal status since the Sydney Summer Paralympics in 2000. Now? There are 25 active companies in the international competition and there are so many countries out there now developing the sport!

The Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup

For the very first time in 2021, the wheelchair element will be taking part in the Rugby League World Cup in England. This is so exciting: inclusivity really is becoming the norm. The same profile and same level of support will be offered to the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup as the usual teams, and if you want to be a part of this event, getting your tickets early is important.

If you are looking for inclusivity in sport, this is it. Not only is it a huge challenge, it’s a great way to come together and enjoy a team sport with the support of 25 different countries and their audiences.

In 2021, England will have eight teams contesting them over 15 days, and this will be starting on the 11th of November.

The opening match at the Copper Box in the London Olympic Park is between England and Australia, with the final on 26th November as part of the Epic Finals Weekend. The nations involved include:

  • England
  • Australia
  • France
  • Norway
  • Scotland
  • Spain
  • USA
  • Wales

Have you bought your tickets!?
Purchase them at: ​​

Gel Ovations Supporting Wheelchair Rugby League Cup!

One thing you may spot during this competition is the expert gel padding on the wheelchairs to protect users during the games.
Gel Ovations create products designed to protect and help, and our products can also be used in other impact sports!

We are grateful to for the photos, please visit their website for more information about Rugby League