United States of America*○
After an unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, powerchair football was submitted for consideration to be part of the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan . Unfortunately, it failed to make the final cut of the 22 approved sports . If it had been accepted, it would have become the first power wheelchair-based sport in the Paralympic Games.
Major competitions for this sport include the Americas Cup (the United States vs. Canada), Power Champions League in Europe, European Nations Cup, and Copa Powerchair Liberators (Latin-American countries). In 2014, FIPFA held the first international tournament for athletes under 18 years of age.
Field of Play (Fig. 14.1)
Power soccer is typically played indoors on a standard size basketball court (28 m × 15 m). The court must be at least 25 m × 14 m and can be as large as 30 m × 18 m. The goals are demarcated by two moveable, upright posts spaced 6 m apart (Fig. 14.2).
Diagram of power soccer field. The diagram details the dimensions of a standard power soccer field and identifies additional required areas that are outside of the field of play. Figure credit Alexander Senk, MD
Power soccer goal. The photograph depicts a typical power soccer goal with goalposts from an anterior perspective. Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
To facilitate safe maneuverability of the power wheelchairs, the field of play requires a hard, level, and smooth surface. Use of wood and artificial materials is recommended, while use of concrete and blacktop is discouraged. This may promote the longevity of the wheels of the powerchairs while reducing the risk of tipping and decrease the severity of abrasions if tipping were to occur.
Besides needing the appropriate venue, there are two major requirements to play: a power soccer ball and adapted power wheelchairs. Additional equipment required for formal competition includes color-coordinated team jerseys for the upper and lower body with clearly visible numbers. Goalkeepers should wear distinguishing apparel. All players are advised to not use equipment that may cause harm to oneself or others. This includes medical equipment that is nonessential during play.
The ball used to play power soccer closely resembles that of traditional soccer ball or European football (Fig. 14.3). It is an inflatable, spherical ball with a low-friction outer covering such as leather or vinyl. It measures 33 cm in diameter and weighs approximately 1 kg. The ball is inflated to a level that minimizes bouncing while preventing enough compressibility to be run over.
Power soccer ball size comparison. The image reveals a standard-sized power soccer ball with its dimensions next to a common folding chair for a size reference. Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Edited by Alexander Senk, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
In comparison, a traditional soccer ball used in Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) matches has a 22 cm diameter and weighs 410–450 g . Thus, a power soccer ball carries approximately twice the amount of force for any given acceleration.
Adapted Power Wheelchair
To be used in play, a power wheelchair must have at least four wheels. The front of the powerchair is equipped with a foot guard or shroud whose purpose is threefold (Fig. 14.4). While protecting the competitor’s lower extremities, it enables striking and passing & prevents trapping of the ball. If desired, a rear guard may also be attached. It is subject to the same specifications as the foot guard.
Foot guard and rear guard specifications. The following images capture three different viewing angles (lateral, anterior, posterior) of a power wheelchair adapted for power soccer play. Images a and b show an example of a foot guard with specifications from a lateral and anterior point of view, respectively. Image c is taken from a posterior perspective to demonstrate a powerchair without a rear guard. (a) Lateral view: Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Edited by Alexander Senk, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. (b) Anterior view: Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. (c) Powerchair without a rear guard: Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Custom designs for foot guards and rear guards are allowed, but they must be fabricated from an unbreakable material. The use of plastic and steel are common. In addition, the guards must be flat to convex with smooth edges and no protrusions. Angling of the guards is not permitted during construction or fastening to the powerchair as it may promote elevation of the ball posing a risk of harm to competitors. Designs with a concavity are also not permitted as they would enable a cradling effect. Frontguards must extend at least the width of the front casters but no further than the widest part of the individual power wheelchair. Collectively, these measures should prevent any holding, trapping, or rolling-over the ball.
Lap seat belts are mandatory. Additional safety features such as restraints (i.e., chest strap, leg straps) and headrests may be implemented according to the tailored needs and preferences of each player (Fig. 14.5). Only essential medical equipment, such as tube feeding, oxygen, or ventilators, should be attached to power wheelchairs during play.
Power wheelchair features. The image identifies common features of powerchairs adapted for power soccer. Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Edited by Alexander Senk, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Regardless of the number of wheels, scooters are not permitted in sanctioned events.
Adaptive athletes can operate powerchairs by any system tailored to meet their functional needs. For instance, some individuals utilize a joystick control system while others who lack sufficient strength or dexterity in their upper extremities may utilize a head control system (Fig. 14.6).
Power wheelchair controls. Powerchairs are operated by a variety of control systems. Images a and b are two examples used by participants to play power soccer. (a) Head control: Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. (b) Joystick control: Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Power Wheelchair Biomechanics
During matches, the maximum speed allowed for powerchairs is 2.7 m/s or 10 km/h (6.2 mph), which coincides with most electric-powered wheelchair capabilities [3, 4, 8]. This speed restriction is for all directions including reverse. Rear wheel drive powerchairs have gained popularity due to their speed and ability to quickly turn which elevates some players’ performance .
Participants tend to vary their speed according to match play. This positively correlates with a study by Kumar et al. based on the 28th and 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. They found that power soccer players averaged a speed of 0.8 ± 0.2 m/s with approximately 31% of game time spent at speeds exceeding 1 m/s, 16% between 0.5–1 m/s, and 21% below 0.5 m/s . The average distance traveled by each contestant during the games was about 900 m .
In comparison, power wheelchairs being used as functional mobility aids in a community setting typically operate at speeds around 0.4 m/s .
There are two 20-minute periods in each match with up to a 10-minute halftime. Before play starts, the duration of the periods and intermission can be changed if mutually agreed upon among the referees and two teams. The addition of stoppage time, such as time lost during injury evaluations or mechanical malfunctions, is at the discretion of the referee. Both teams have two 2-minute time outs per half.
Each team may consist of a total of eight players with up to four players in the game and four substitutes. One of the athletes in play must always be a goalkeeper. The minimum permissible number of players allowed for a team to begin a competition is two, and the maximum number of PF2 status players on a team engaged in a FIPFA-regulated competition is two. (See Sect. “Classifications” for further information.) Substitutions are permitted during stoppage of play during the match. To play, one must be at least 5 years old and be able to properly control his or her power wheelchair. This may be performed by any variety of control systems (Fig. 14.7).
Power soccer game action. The photograph captures live game play. Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
In order to score a goal, the entire ball must cross the goal line without any infractions of the rulebook during play. If a goalpost is missing or becomes strewn during the action, a goal is awarded if majority of the ball crosses inside of the respective marker and completely passes the goal line (Fig. 14.8).
Power soccer goaltending. The image illustrates real-time goaltending. Photo credit Brionn Tonkin, MD. Courtesy of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute