Understanding the impact of trunk and arm impairment on wheelchair rugby performance during competition

Purpose: To determine the effect of trunk and arm impairment on physical and technical performance during wheelchair rugby (WR) competition. Methods: Thirty-one highly trained WR players grouped according to their trunk (no trunk [NT]; some trunk [T] function) and arm impairment (poor [PAF]; moderate [MAF]; good [GAF] arm function) participated in 5 WR matches. Player’s physical (wheelchair mobility) and technical (ball handling) activities were analysed using an indoor tracking system and video analysis respectively. Results: Trunk impairment explained some of the variance in physical (10.6–23.5%) and technical (16.2–33.0%) performance. T covered more distance, had more possession, scored more goals, received and made more passes, yet spent less time at low speeds and performed fewer inbounds than NT (≤ 0.05). Arm impairment explained some of the variance in all physical (16.7–47.0%) and the majority of technical (13.1–53.3%) performance measures. MAF and GAF covered more distance, reached higher peak speeds, spent more time in higher speed zones, scored more goals, had more possession, received and made more passes, with a higher percentage of one-handed and long passes than PAF. GAF also received more passes and made a higher percentage of one-handed passes and defensive blocks than MAF (P ≤ 0.05). Conclusions: Arm impairment impacts a greater number of physical and technical measures of performance specific to WR than trunk impairment during competition. Having active finger function (GAF) yielded no further improvements in physical performance but positively influenced a small number of technical skills