The presence of paraplegic athletes has become evident in the sports world, especially with the rising popularity of the Paralympics and the incorporation of adaptive sports. Wheelchair races are becoming commonplace among track and field events, and prosthetics, once a rarity in athletics, are now a normal sight on the field. 

Quad rugby, or quadriplegic rugby, is a sport that is designed to accommodate individuals who have suffered from paralyzing injuries that leaves their lower bodies or limbs immobile. 

“Quad rugby, and other adaptive sports, allow people with spinal cord injuries continue to participate in physical and recreational activity,” Alain Mika, a graduate student in the physical therapy program, said. “They feel empowered, and even though they may not be able to move the way they could before the injury, or may move differently than most, they are still highly capable athletes.” 

If You Go Box:

What: Annual Battle the Blitz Quad Rugby tournament 

When: Saturday Oct. 5th, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Ping Recreation Center 

Admission: Free, but donations are encouraged

Ohio University’s Battle the Blitz tournament was originally founded in 2006 by the Ohio University Department of Physical Therapy and the Ohio Buckeye Blitz Quad Rugby team. Ohio Buckeye Blitz, a team based out of Columbus, are a semi-professional team that comes to Athens every year to raise money for their various competitions and equipment. 

A typical game of paraplegic rugby, designed to accommodate athletes of various physical impairments, is still very aggressive. Actions like tackling are allowed in the game, though punching, slapping and hitting are not. The players, divided into teams of four, cradled the ball in their laps or hands as they maneuver around other participants. The player who rolls across the goal line with the ball on two wheels or all four wheels scores a point for their team. 

“All of the money goes towards a large donation to the team,” Michael Lantz, a second year physical therapy student, said. “At the end of the event, that helps the team purchase more quad rugby wheelchairs. One chair typically costs more than $5,000 and the event is all for the benefit of the players and the advancement of their sport.”

This year, Battle the Blitz celebrates its 13th anniversary, with 26 teams expected to compete in the tournament, including Ohio Buckeye Blitz and the OU quad rugby squad. Though raising money for the procurement of the wheelchairs is primary, bringing recognition to the squad is also an objective. 

The OU physical therapy program also interacts with the players in the classroom, using the team members as practice subjects when studying how to care for a patient with a spinal cord injury. Members of the program help to set up the tournament and collect donations for the benefit of the team, often coming back to support and cheer on the players. 

“It's really great,” Kayla Hawkins, a third year physical therapy student, said. “One of our professors actually has organized the event and we are required to go there at least once, but we always want to come back. The guys are a lot of fun.” 

The OU Department of Physical Therapy will be selling T-shirts and raffle tickets for the event in addition to collecting donations.