Analysis of the NWAA Swimming Classification System

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
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This study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the National Wheelchair Athletic Association (NWAA) classification system in swimming events. The NWAA records of freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke in nine classifications of both male and female athletes were used (N=1,256). Each athlete’s speed was calculated from the reported time and distance. There was a significant difference in classification for all events except the paraplegic 50- and 100-m backstroke events. Post hoc data analyses within classification for the 50- and 100-m freestyle events indicated significant differences among all paraplegic classifications. Post hoc data analyses within classifications for the 50-m butterfly event indicated significant differences among all paraplegic classes except Class V and Class VI athletes. Tetraplegic within classification post hoc data analyses indicated significant differences between 1A and both Classes 1B and 1C. Gender differences were statistically indicated for all events. The logic of the medical classification system of the NWAA cannot be totally supported by these data. However, the results do not offer clear direction for any combination of classes.

Gale Gehlsen is with the Biomechanics Laboratory, PL 202, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306. Joan Karpuk is with the National Wheelchair Athletic Association, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

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