Murderball was the original name for Wheelchair Rugby, the very popular sport for athletes with a disability that is played in nearly thirty countries around the world. It is practiced by both women and men in mixed teams. In the United States the game also goes by the name of quad rugby, a reference to the unique sport created by athletes who are mostly all quadriplegics. Most participants have spinal cord injuries, but some may also have suffered multiple amputations. Wheelchair rugby is a cross between rugby union, wheelchair basketball and handball and is known for very robust contact with the wheelchairs designed for that purpose. The objective is for a player to carry the ball across the opponent’s goal line and the wheelchair is often used to block the progress of the ball carrier. The sport is played indoors on a hard court. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) recognises wheelchair rugby, and it also forms part of the Paralympic program.
The game was created in 1976 by five wheelchair athletes from Canada. At the time wheelchair basketball was the prominent sport, but through the creation of wheelchair rugby it paved the way for quadriplegic athletes to be part of a sport where a wider range of functional abilities could be displayed. In addition, the physical nature of the sport would also have attracted a greater appeal to participate. Three years later the game was introduced to the United States, and a further three years later to Australia. The first international tournament was in 1989 in Toronto, Canada. The first world championships were held in 1995 in Nottwil, Switzerland. A year later wheelchair rugby made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Paralympics, and four years later achieved full medal status at the 2000 Sydney Summer Paralympics. The court area is the same size as a regulation basketball court. A team can have up to twelve players but may only have four players on the court at any time. During competitions each player is assessed to determine the level of disability and the classification that should be awarded.
The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) is the highest authority and world governing body for the sport. The federation was established as a section in 1993 within the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF), and in 2005 ISMWSF became the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS). In January 2010, IWRF became an independent sport federation with their office based in Sheffield, England.