Wheelchair Curling

Picture 18.1
Curling action from the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2016. ©World Curling Federation/Céline Stucki


The Sheet

Wheelchair curling is played on an ice surface called a “sheet” (Picture 18.2). The sheet has parallel lines on it: the tee line, the back line, the hog line, the center line, the hack line, and the courtesy line. Where the tee line and center line intersect is called the “tee.” With the tee as the center, four concentric circles surround it, and this entire area is called the house.1 In wheelchair events, there are two wheelchair lines between the hog lines and the outermost circle. Wheelchair users typically set their chair in front of the house on the delivery end, about 8–10 feet back from the hog line, instead of using the hack at the delivery end of the sheet (see footnote 1).


Picture 18.2
Sheet/ice dimensions. Photo courtesy of the ©World Curling Federation, from “The Rules of Curling,” dated October 2015


The stones are made of granite and are concave on the upper and lower surfaces (see footnote 1). A handle is bolted into the stone and is channeled through the other side. A delivery stick can be used in wheelchair curling to deliver the stone via the handle (instead of the hand) and can be borrowed from the curling facility typically. Other athletes chose to use their hand to deliver the stone instead of the stick. The stones are delivered from one side to the house of the other side (see footnote 1).


Wheelchairs are typically the person’s own wheelchair. It can be a manual or power wheelchair and must have a footrest (see footnote 1). The wheelchair athlete’s feet cannot touch the ground during play (see footnote 1). Typically, players cool their wheels prior to being on the ice by spending time near the backboards (see footnote 1). Wheelchair curlers can chose to have a post on the nondelivery arm side of their chair into order to hold onto it while curling for stabilization. Alternatively to a chair post, they could hold onto the nondelivery arm wheel (see footnote 1).

Rules and Regulations

Wheelchair curling is governed by the World Curling Federation (WCF). Wheelchair curling rules are very similar to able-bodied curling, with the exception of no sweeping is performed in wheelchair curling [1]. The following rules are adapted from the WCF “The Rules of Curling” dated October 2015 (see footnote 1). Please remember these rules are not meant to be all inconclusive and are subject to change per the WCF. All current rules are available for review via the World Curling website (see footnote 1).

General Rules

Competition in wheelchair curling consists of four players on a team and must include both females and males (see footnote 1). The players are the Skip (the Captain), the Lead, the Second, and the Vice. Players must maintain the delivery rotation. The Skip determines the weight (velocity), turn (the curl), or line (direction despite the curl) of the stone (see footnote 1). Each player delivers two stones per “end” (the way a curling game is divided, like innings in baseball), totaling eight stones per team. There are typically eight ends played in wheelchair curling (see footnote 1).

Once all 16 stones are played in an end, the goal is to have a stone of your team’s closest to the center of the house. The team with the closest stone to the tee scores a point. They can score more points if they have two stones that are closest and so on. If a stone does not come to rest completely beyond the inside edge of the hog line, it is removed from play (unless it strikes another stone) (see footnote 1).

The Injured Player

If a player is unable to continue playing (the player can only leave the game once), then one of two situations can occur (see footnote 1). Either the three remaining players can continue to play until the player who left the game can return or a qualified alternative player can join at the beginning of an end (see footnote 1). The replaced player many not reenter if the latter is chosen (see footnote 1). If an alternative player is allowed in the competition, only one alternate player can be registered (see footnote 1).

If the situation occurs where a player plays one stone and cannot play the next, a teammate will finish the play (see footnote 1). If it is the first player or the third player that cannot finish the play, the second player delivers the stone. If it is the second player, the first player delivers (see footnote 1). If it is the fourth player, the third player delivers the stone. If a player is missing for any reason, the first two players deliver three stones each, and the third delivers two stones (see footnote 1). The missing player can later enter the game in the prior declared order or the players may use the alternate registered player (see footnote 1).

Wheelchair Setup (Picture 18.3)

Wheelchair users typically set their wheelchair in front of the house (see footnote 1). The stone must be released from the stick prior to reaching the hog line (see footnote 1). The chair must be positioned so that at the start of the delivery, the entire width of the stone is within the wheelchair lines (see footnote 1). When the delivery begins, the stone must be placed within 18 inches of the center line. Both of the athlete’s feet must be off the ice and on the footrest during delivery of the stone (see footnote 1).


Picture 18.3
Curling action from the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2016. ©World Curling Federation/Céline Stucki

Wheelchair Anchoring

Wheelchair curling requires the assistance of someone else to secure the chair and prevent it from rolling.2 The athlete’s wheelchair should be locked and in curling position as stated previously (Picture 18.3). A second wheelchair athlete can roll up behind the delivering athlete, lock their chair, and then lean forward to hold the competing athlete’s wheelchair with both hands (see footnote 2). Likewise, a standing partner can put their foot behind the wheel on the side of the delivering arm while holding onto the delivering athlete’s chair with both hands (see footnote 2).

Classification Process for Wheelchair Curling Athletes

Wheelchair curlers must have lower limb impairments to be eligible. Curlers that participate have multiple impairments including but not limited to spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, polyneuropathy, cerebral palsy, limb deficiency due to congenital malformation or amputations, or multiple sclerosis. In order for an athlete to compete in the World Wheelchair Curling Championship, World Wheelchair Curling Qualification events, and Paralympic Winter Games, they must undergo the WCF classification and eligibility process. The eligibility criteria are presented in Fig. 18.1 from the WCF Classification Rules, dated October 2014.3 The athletes are either allocated to sports class eligible or non-eligible. Recall that these eligibility criteria are subject to change as determined by the WCF and are available for review via the World Curling website (see footnote 3).


Fig. 18.1
Wheelchair curling athlete eligibility (see footnote 3)


Wheelchair curling biomechanics involve understanding the upper body and the delivery arm (Picture 18.4). There is no use of the lower limbs in wheelchair curling, meaning the biomechanics to deliver the stone are very different from able-bodied curlers. The most important movement for the wheelchair curler is the forward motion of the delivery arm and the twist at the forearm and wrist that occurs to create the “curl” or rotation of the stone. In order to create a successful delivery, the grip on the delivery stick and stabilization of curler while curling are key. In wheelchair curling, the chair is static and therefore all of the momentum must come from the upper body to deliver the stone. In order create this momentum, the athlete must stabilize the nondelivery arm by holding onto the post or the wheel on the nondelivery side (see footnote 2). With regard to the grip on the stick, the grip should be in a “V” position (so that the index finger and thumb are as parallel as possible to the stick). Such a grip should allow for a very controlled and tactical delivery (see footnote 2).


Picture 18.4
Curling action from the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2016. ©World Curling Federation/Céline Stucki

Common Injuries and Injury Prevention

Common wheelchair athlete injuries are summarized in Fig. 18.2 and expanded in this section. For review of studies looking at injuries specific to wheelchair curlers, see Sect. “Wheelchair Curling Injuries” in this chapter.


Fig. 18.2
Common wheelchair sport injuries (For references, refer to text)

Common Wheelchair Athlete Injuries

Upper Limb Injuries

In general for wheelchair sports, upper limb injuries are most commonly reported. A 1991 study reported injuries commonly occurred in the hand (20%), followed then by the shoulder (15.5%), fingers (11.1%), and arm (10%) [2]. Another study, looking at only wheelchair athletes in track and field, wheelchair basketball, quad rugby, fencing, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball, similarly demonstrated soft tissues injuries commonly occurring in the shoulder (18%), followed by the arm (12%) and the wrist (12%) [3]. The general consensus within the adaptive sport literature is that injuries most commonly involve the shoulder, ranging between 15 [2] and 72% with the highest incidence in female wheelchair basketball players [46]. In those with arm injuries, the most likely diagnosis was muscle strains (52%), tendinopathy (30%), and bursitis (15.6%) and contusions [2, 3]. Interestingly, a 2012 Summer Paralympic study, which included all adaptive athletes (wheelchair and non-wheelchair users), determined that irrespective of impairment type, the upper limb accounted for 50.2% of all injuries, with the shoulder being most common (17.7%), followed by the wrist/hand (11.4%) and elbow (8.8%) [7, 8].

In wheelchair athletes, it appears chronic injuries (35–60%) may be more likely than acute, but this could be sport and study specific depending on the definition of acute versus chronic and methods to collect data [911]. Upper limb nerve entrapments are also common, specifically median mononeuropathy (50%) at the wrist and ulnar neuropathy (25%) at the wrist [12].

Spine Injuries

While the shoulder may be the most common site of reported pain in wheelchair athletes, the actual site of pathology in one study was determined to be the cervical and thoracic spine (59 and 8% respectively), suggesting common referral of pain to the shoulder [4]. This stresses the importance of a thorough physical examination.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries are often reported to include sprains, strains, and tendinopathies of the shoulder, elbow, arm, and hand, as well as blisters (74%), abrasions (68%), lacerations (12%), and decubitus ulcers (8.9%) [2]. Another study reported blisters and skin lacerations accounting for up to 35% of reported injuries [9]. Recall that the likely mechanism of blisters, abrasions, and lacerations (when there is not a collision involved) is contact of the hand or wrist with the chair rim. Since these may require minimum medical care, they may even be underreported [13].

Lower Extremity Injuries

The lower extremity incidence of injury is less common than the able-bodied population in wheelchair athletes [14]. Lower extremity fractures are more common in high speed adaptive sports with collision like wheelchair basketball, rugby, and softball [13].

Wheelchair Curling Injuries

Injuries specific to wheelchair curling athletes are available from the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. In the 2010 survey of 50 curling athletes, 18% reported injuries. Injuries were from overuse or strain either to the upper limb (shoulder X 1, elbow X 1, wrist X 1) or spine (cervical X 3, thoracic X 1, lumbar X 2). However, less than half of the injuries were sport related. Overuse injuries are more likely than acute injuries [15], but injuries are still relatively uncommon in curling athletes compared to the other wheelchair sports. This is possibly because the sport does not involve repetitive overhead movements and wheelchair propulsion and utilizes minimal strength from the shoulder. Even though wheelchair curling is a low-risk sport, medical providers should be aware that serious injuries have occurred in other low-risk sports [15].

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Feb 25, 2018 | Posted by in SPORT MEDICINE | Comments Off on Wheelchair Curling

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