Classification

Athletes must be nationally classified by sport according to their functional ability.

A national classification opportunity will exist at many of the Move United Sanctioned Competitions and annually at the Move United Junior Nationals, typically for swimming and track and field.

What is Classification?

Classification provides a structure for competition among athletes with impairments. Athletes competing in Move United sports all have been identified with one or more impairments that limit neuromuscular, motor, sensory and/or cognitive functioning. Because the nature of these impairments can vary significantly, a system is needed to allow for fair competition.

The goal of the classification process is to categorize athletes so that the difference in performance is related to training and athletic ability, not to the degree of impairment. This is accomplished by combining athletes with similar levels of impairment into categories for competition (classes). It is similar to the process of using weight categories for a sport like wrestling – it would not be fair for a 200lb wrestler to go against one weighing only 80lbs. In adaptive sports, athletes are not categorized by weight, but rather by degree of impairment. Although not a perfect science, classification provides a mechanism that addresses the vast and varied aspects of impairment in order to provide fair competition.

Information about classification for all sports on the Paralympic Games program can be found at https://www.paralympic.org/classification. You can also learn more about classification, eligible impairments, and how to become a classifier at the Team USA website.

Explanatory Guide to Paralympic Classification – Paralympic Summer Sports

Who Needs To Be Classified?

All new athletes to adaptive sports need to be nationally classified to compete in archery, swimming, and/or track and field events at Junior Nationals. A limited number of classification appointments will be available at Junior Nationals for athletes competing in those sports. For those competing in paratriathlon, powerlifting, and/or shooting, there will not be formal classification required. Instead, event management will gather information from the registration form for competition placement.

The classification process is different depending on the athlete’s impairment type: physical impairment, visual impairment, or intellectual impairment.

ATHLETES WITH PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENTS

Where, when and how is an athlete classified?

The assignment of classes is done by trained, certified, National and International classifiers, who go through years of training and certification. Through this process, classifiers will determine an athlete’s eligibility to compete in Move United Sanctioned Competitions and place eligible athletes into sport classes according to the sport limitations created by their impairments.

National classification for physical impairments requires that an athlete be seen by a panel of 1 or 2 National Classifiers dependent on sport. National classification is available for swimming and/or track and field at many of the Sanctioned Competitions around the country. If an athlete is seen by a National Panel at one of these events, s/he will not need to be seen again at Junior Nationals. However, if the athlete is not classified by a National Panel prior to Junior Nationals, s/he will need to go through the classification process at Junior Nationals.

Additionally, if an athlete has been seen but has been indicated a “review status” s/he will also need to be seen again. The “review status” may be issued at the initial classification if the athlete was not observed in competition, if there was a reason the National Panel thought the athlete should be seen again, or if the classification panel indicated a fixed date review for the athlete to be seen again in a certain amount of time based on age or time since injury.

The location of National Classification Opportunities in 2021 can be found through the links on the website pages referenced above once available.

What happens at classification?

For athletes with a physical impairment, classification is a 3-step process.

1. The athlete will have a physical evaluation like an examination performed by a physical therapist. The classification panel will assess the athlete’s ability to move. Depending on the type of impairment(s) the athlete has, this assessment may include checking the range of motion of joints, the strength of muscles, sitting or standing balance, and/or arm and leg coordination.

2. The next step in the process is called the Technical Assessment. This will typically be done at the same time as the physical assessment. For this portion of the assessment the athlete needs to bring the equipment they normally use (track chair, gloves, field chair, implements, etc). The Panel will ask the athlete to demonstrate how they typically perform the aspects of their sport.

3. The final step of the classification process is for the Panel to observe the athlete in competition. This does not involve anything extra on the athlete’s part. It simply means the Panel will observe during the actual competition to confirm that the assigned class is the correct one.

Not all athletes will need to go through all 3 steps, but most do. For example, an athlete with an amputation below the knee and no other impairments may be able to be assigned a class after the physical assessment only. On the other hand, an athlete with range of motion, balance, or coordination issues will typically need to perform a technical assessment and be observed during competition.

What do I need to know about getting classified?

If you have not been classified, you should consider requesting classification at a Move United Sanctioned Competition. If not, make sure you sign up for National classification during the registration process of Junior Nationals and plan to arrive in time for the day of classification.

An athlete may request a classification time slot during the online registration process. Classification dates are listed under the “Registration” tab.

When you come to classification, please bring any relevant medical information that will help describe your condition.  Also, make sure to have with you any equipment you use for performing your sport.

ATHLETES WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

Visually impaired athletes are eligible to compete in paratriathlon, shooting, swimming, and track and field.

Where, when and how is a visually impaired athlete classified?

Athletes with visual impairments may obtain a national classification at any time during the year, and do not need to attend an event as part of the classification process. To obtain a National VI Classification, athletes must have the visual impairment medical diagnosis form completed by their ophthalmologist and return it to their NGB along with supporting documentation related to the diagnosed eye condition as outlined on the medical diagnosis form at least four weeks prior to a competition they intend to compete at.

Questions? Contact USOPC Classification Manager (NPCUSAclassification@usopc.org)

ATHLETES WITH INTELLECTUAL IMPAIRMENTS

Intellectually impaired athletes are eligible to compete in swimming, table tennis, and track and field.

Where, when and how is an intellectually impaired athlete classified?

Athletes with intellectual impairments may obtain a national classification at any time during the year. Athletes must contact Athletes Without Limits to apply to obtain their national classification. Visit https://www.athleteswithoutlimits.org/eligibility for more information. There are three eligibility groups outlined by Athletes Without Limits. Intellectual Disability 1 (II1) is the original eligibility group for athletes with intellectual impairments and is offered at all Athletes Without Limits & Virtus competitions. It is also the eligibility criteria for Paralympic-style opportunities including Junior Nationals.

The II1 eligibility criteria are:

  1. An IQ of 75 or lower
  2. Significant limitations in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills
  3. The impairment must have been diagnosed before the age of 18