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Soccer for Athletes with a Disability


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Soccer for Athletes with a Disability


 WHAT IS A DISABILITY?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

*Estimated in 2010

*Estimated in 2010

People living with a disability have a significantly higher likelihood of being overweight, developing cardiovascular disease and smoking tobacco as compared to the general population.

BARRIERS TO SPORT AND EXERCISE FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH A DISABILITY

 
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  • Some young athletes with a disability may start in a youth recreation league with other kids their own age. However, typically around puberty, many of the athletes with a disability do not continue to compete at the same level and drop out of sport completely without any other competitive leagues to join.

  • Adaptive equipment for athletes with a disability can be costly or difficult to find.

  • Public school interscholastic athletic programs exclusively for youth with disabilities are scarce.

  • Athletic role models for athletes with disability are not as widely popularized in the U.S. media.

  • Physicians are less likely to counsel individuals with a disability about the importance of exercise, even though the benefit of exercise is great.

  • Access to coaches and fitness experts who are skilled at advising an athlete with a disability can be difficult to garner.

POLICY CHANGES TO MINIMIZE THE BARRIERS FOR ATHLETES WITH A DISABILITY

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensured that educational settings receiving federal funds must grant students with disabilities access to appropriate public education, including physical education and athletics and equal opportunity for participation.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ensured access to sporting facilities such as swimming pools, ice rinks, gyms, golf facilities, and boating docks. Furthermore, any newly constructed fitness facilities must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 established the standards for education in youth with disabilities (ages 3-21 years old). It explicitly included access to physical education. As a result, a new professional field developed – adapted physical education instructors.

THE BENEFITS OF SOCCER FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH A DISABILITY

Playing and participating in soccer at any level can have a long-lasting effect on the health and well being of a person with a disability both on and off the field.

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WHAT ARE THE PARALYMPICS?

Per the International Paralympic Committee, “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (meaning alongside) and the word “Olympic”. The Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics for athletes with a disability - the two movements exist side-by-side.

• The Paralympics are the largest elite-level sports competition for athletes with a disability worldwide and involve athletes from several disability categories.

• Opportunities to compete within the Paralympic movement have significantly improved the physical fitness of many individuals with a disability and the sports participation opportunities available to them.

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WHAT IS PARALYMPIC 7-A-SIDE SOCCER?

7-a-side Paralympic soccer consists of adaptations to the sport of soccer for ambulatory athletes with a physical disability.

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• During matches, the FIFA rules are used with modifications, including size of playing field, size of the goals, number of players, and rules regarding offsides.

• In 1984, soccer was first introduced to the Paralympic Games. The U.S. team first competed in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona.

• Prior to participation in a Paralympic Soccer event, players need to be classified by a team of certified classifiers into categories based on their level of disability.

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THE U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL 7-A-SIDE PARALYMPIC SOCCER TEAM

• The U.S. Men’s Paralympic National Team (USPNT) is an elite- level program that selects players from across the country and prepares them for standard international competition.

• The national team competes in several international events including the Paralympic games. The team’s best finish in an international tournament was fourth place during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

• Additionally, they also compete in other tournaments including the Parapan American Games, the Copa America, the Intercontinental Cup, the World Championships and the World Cup.

• As of 2018, USA Soccer also supports an Under-19 (U-19) development team that competes in U-19 tournaments.

THE RULES OF THE 7-A-SIDE PARALYMPIC SOCCER GAME

Paralympic soccer is played on a 75 x 55 meter field with the goal being 5 x 2 meters.

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The sport follows FIFA’s standard rules for 7-a-side soccer with the following exceptions:

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• No offsides rule
• Under-arm throw is permitted if a player is physically unable to execute a throw according to FIFA rules.
• Opposing players are required to be seven meters from the ball on restarts.
• Players are allocated to one of three sport classes based on their level of impairment. To ensure a fair game, each team is required to have one FT1 player on the field at all times and is not allowed to have more than one FT3 player on the field at any time (see “Classes of Paralympic Soccer Players” below).

WHO CAN PLAY FOR THE U.S. MEN’S 7-A-SIDE PARALYMPIC SOCCER TEAM?

• For players to be eligible, they must be able to walk (with no requirement for assistive walking aids).

• Male athletes with impairments related to neurological conditions, typically cerebral palsy, brain injury or stroke, can play in Paralympic soccer competitions.

• The degree of disability in these players may cause only minimal levels of motor dysfunction. However, under the rules of the sport, this could still make players eligible for the U.S. Paralympic 7-a-side National Team.

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CLASSES OF 7-A-SIDE PARALYMPIC SOCCER PLAYERS (IFCPF CLASSIFICATION):

Players are further grouped by affected area (but this does not affect how many are on the field at a time):

• A: Bilateral Spasticity
• B: Dyskinesia/Ataxia
• C: Unilateral Spasticity

Players competing in Paralympic soccer events are given a sport class based on their level of impairment. Eligible classes are:

• FT1: Severe Involvement
• FT2: Moderate Involvement
• FT3: Minimal Involvement

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SOCCER INJURIES IN THE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY

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• Each players’ risk of injury is dependent on their baseline impairment.
• In Paralympic soccer, although limited research is available, studies have shown that muscle imbalances at baseline increase the risk of injury in these players. Therefore, a muscle strengthening and evaluation program is important.
• All players with a disability who play regularly in a team sport, such as soccer, should be cleared by a sports medicine professional prior to participating.
• Spasticity (muscle resistance to stretch) is commonly seen in cerebral palsy, stroke and brain injury patients, which may require the need for specific stretching exercises, orthotics and/or medications for treatment. Spasticity in the athlete should be managed by a medical professional experienced in the treatment of this condition (commonly a Physiatrist or Neurologist).

VERSIONS OF SOCCER FOR ATHLETES WITH A DISABILITY

At the international level for players with a disability, there are eight recognized forms of soccer which include:

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Amputee Soccer
• The World Amputee Football Federation was formed at a World Congress in Brazil in 2005. Founding members were Argentina, Brazil, England, Russia, Ukraine, the U.S., and Uzbekistan.
• Today, the Federation has more than 30 national associations from five continents.
• The games are typically 6v6 plus a goalkeeper. Players move around the field using standard crutches. They are not allowed to use prosthetic limbs.
• In 2014, the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team reached the World Cup for the first time in more than 10 years. Special Olympics Soccer
• The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 and is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions.
• The Special Olympics are held separately from the Olympics and the Paralympics.
• Special Olympic Soccer includes 5-a-side, 7-a-side and 11-a-side competitions.

Special Olympics Soccer
• The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 and is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions.
• The Special Olympics are held separately from the Olympics and the Paralympics.
• Special Olympic Soccer includes 5-a-side, 7-a-side and 11-a-side competitions.

Dwarf Soccer
• Dwarf Soccer is for athletes of short stature.
• The Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA) is the American organization heading up participation and registration. They have open registration to all athletes of all skill levels. They organize recreational, developmental and elite-level events and competitions.
• The World Dwarf Games occurs every four years and is the highest level competition, last taking place in 2017 in Ontario, Canada. In prior years, Chicago (1993) as well as East Lansing, Michigan (2013) have hosted the games.
• Dwarf Soccer is included within the USSF Disability Committee.

Blind Soccer
• This is an adaptation of soccer for athletes with visual impairments including blindness.
• The sport, governed by the International Football Sports Federation (IBSA), is played with modified FIFA rules.
• The sport was added to the Paralympics in 2004.
• The field of play is smaller than the typical soccer field and is surrounded by boards.
• The ball is equipped with a noise making device.
• Teams have five players including the goalkeeper. There is also one guide positioned off the field of play to assist in directing the players.
• Teams are permitted to use goalkeepers who are sighted.
• Matches consist of two 25-minute halves, with a ten-minute break at half-time.

Deaf Soccer
• In soccer, these players face hidden disadvantages, such as not being able to hear their coach’s instructions during a game, a referee’s decision or the roar of the crowd.
• Under international criteria, to compete in deaf soccer competitions, players must have an average hearing loss of 55 Decibels or more in the best ear. Hearing loss below this level has been shown to negatively impact hearing.

Power Soccer
• This is the first competitive team sport that was developed specifically for power wheelchair users.
• Athlete disabilities include multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy among others.
• Players use their wheelchair to move around the court and move the ball when passing, to tackle another player and to score goals.
• The games are played indoors (usually on a modified basketball court). The ball is also slightly larger than a regulation-sized soccer ball.
• Two teams of 4 players play each game with movement of the soccer ball through use of their wheelchair.

Frame Soccer
• Frame Soccer/Football is for athletes/participants who use a walker or crutches for daily mobility.
• It is played by both children and adults.
• This was started in England in 2014.

OTHER SOCCER ORGANIZATIONS FOR CHILDREN WITH A DISABILITY

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American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)

• The VIP (Very Important Player) program was developed for children whose physical or mental disabilities prevent them from participation in mainstream teams.

• VIP teams may include players who are mentally or emotionally challenged, autistic, visually impaired, have cerebral palsy or other conditions that limit mobility.

• Individuals with disabilities can join from the age of 4.

• Through participation in the program, individuals with disabilities experience the benefits of being part of a team, wearing a uniform and improving their physical fitness.

• Players without a disability assist VIP players in the field as ‘buddies’ fostering an atmosphere of teamwork.

U.S. Youth Soccer TOPSoccer
(The Outreach Program for Soccer)

• Created to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America’s youth through soccer.

• The program is designed to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any child with a mental or physical disability.

• It provides meaningful learning, development and physical participation opportunities to these young athletes through soccer.

• This is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities (ages 4-19).

• Modifications are made to the game to allow full participation and enjoyment for each player.


RESOURCES/WEBSITES AVAILABLE TO SOCCER PLAYER WITH A DISABILITY:

Amputee Soccer
American Amputee Soccer Association
http://www.ampsoccer.org

World Amputee Football Federation
http://www.worldamputeefootball.com/

Soccer for Athletes with Intellectual Impairment
International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments (INAS)
https://inas.org/

Special Olympics Soccer
http://resources.specialolympics.org/Taxonomy/Sports_Essentials/_Sports_Info/Football.aspx

Dwarf Soccer
Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA)
http://www.daaa.org

World Dwarf Games
http://worlddwarfgames.com/

Frame Soccer/Football
Frame Football Foundation
http://framefootball.com/

Cerebral Palsy Sport Frame Football
http://www.cpsport.org/sports/football/frame-football/

U.S. Men’s 7-a-side Paralympic National Team
http://www.ussoccer.com/paralympic-national-team

U.S. Youth Soccer, TOPSoccer
http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/programs/topsoccer/

American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)
http://www.ayso676.com/vip-program/

Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program
http://www.ric.org/services/sports-and-fitness/

CP Soccer USA
https://www.cpsoccer.us/

Canadian Soccer Association
https://www.canadasoccer.com/files/LTPD_AWAD_Booklet_EN_lores_201401.pdf

Scottish Football Association
https://www.scottishfa.co.uk/media/2868/playability-ourgame-is-the-same.pdf

Blind & Partially-Sighted Soccer
International Blind Sports Federation
http://www.ibsasport.org

British Blind Sport
http://britishblindsport.org.uk

Power Soccer
U.S. Power Soccer
http://www.powersoccerusa.org/