Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Biomechanical Consequences of Impairment: A Taxonomically Valid Basis for Classification in a Unified Disability Athletics System. (Biomechanics)

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Biomechanical Consequences of Impairment: A Taxonomically Valid Basis for Classification in a Unified Disability Athletics System. (Biomechanics)

Article excerpt

Developing a unified classification system to rep lace four of the systems currently used in disability athletics (i.e., track and field) has been widely advocated. The diverse impairments to be included in a unified system require several assessment methods, results of which cannot be meaningfully compared. Therefore, the taxonomic basis of current classification systems is invalid in a unified system. Biomechanical analysis establishes that force, a vector described in terms of magnitude

and direction, is a hey determinant of success in all athletic disciplines. It is posited that all impairments to be included in a unified system may be classified as either force magnitude impairments (FMI) or force control impairments (FCI). This framework would provide a valid taxonomic basis for a unified system, creating the opportunity to decrease the number of classes and enhance the viability of disability athletics.

Key words: disability sport, force, taxonomy

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In disability athletics (i.e., track and field) a number of classification systems are internationally recognized, including the systems of Cerebral Palsy-International Sport and Recreation Association (GP-ISRA, 2001), International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF, 2000), and the International Sports Organization for the Disabled (ISOD, 1993). ISOD has one system for amputees and one for les autres. It has been widely suggested that these four systems of classification be replaced with a single system, an initiative similar to others undertaken in a range of disability sports, including swimming, table tennis, and equestrian. A major reason cited for such a move is that it would create an opportunity to reduce the absolute number of classes in the system, resulting in many advantages, including: increasing the number of athletes within classes and improving competitiveness within classes; increasing the number of competitive opportunities for athletes; and, by inference, stimulating athl ete participation and public interest (Hainey, 1993; Higgs, Babstock, Buck, Parsons, & Brewer, 1990; Shephard, 1990).

However, as Sherrill (1999) stated, not only is classification "...the essence of disability sport..." but also "...the area where research is most needed." (p. 210), highlighting the fact that enthusiasm for a unified disability, athletics classification should be tempered by the need to ensure that such a system is founded on scientific principles. This paper analyzes the current systems and concludes that the taxonomic basis of current classification systems is not valid in a unified system. It proposes that classifying impairments on the basis of the biomechanical limitations is an alternative that would be taxonomically valid in a unified system. The struc-ture and implementation the proposed system are described and discussed.

Terms and Definitions

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) first published the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities, and Handicaps (ICIDH) in 1980. In 1993, the WHO began a revision of the ICIDH, and in May 2001 the revised classification was endorsed by the 54th World Health Assembly and renamed the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). The Appendix contrasts the ICIDH and the ICF and provides definitions for key ICF terms. Readers wishing to study the classification in detail are referred to the World Health Organization (WHO) website (http:/ /www3.who.int/icf/icftemplate.cfm). This site has a searchable online version of the ICF classification as well as details of how to orderaprintversion of the ICF, which contains the full classification and supporting text, including definitions and guidelines for use.

A principal aim of the ICF is to define a standardized language to describe health and health-related states (WHO, 2001). …

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