The layman's guide to swimming classifications

Swimming is the only sport that combines the conditions of limb loss, cerebral palsy (coordination and movement restrictions), spinal cord injury (weakness or paralysis involving any combination of the limbs) and other disabilities (such as Dwarfism and major joint restriction conditions) across classes.

Classes 1-10
swimmers with a physical disability
Classes 11-13
swimmers with a visual disability
Class 14
swimmers with an intellectual disability
Class 15
swimmers with a hearing impairment
Class 16
swimmers with an organ or bone transplant

The Prefix S to the class denotes the class for Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly
The Prefix SB to the class denotes the class for Breaststroke
The Prefix SM to the class denotes the class for Individual Medley.

The range is from the swimmers with severe disability (S1, SB1, SM1) to those with the minimal disability (S10, SB9, SM10). In any one class some swimmers may start with a dive or in the water depending on their condition. This is factored in when classifying the athlete.

The examples are only a guide - some conditions not mentioned may also fit the following classes.

Functional Classification SystemS1, SB1, SM1
- Swimmers in this class would usually be wheelchair bound and may be dependent on others for their everyday needs. Examples are swimmers with very severe coordination problems in four limbs or have no use of their legs, trunk, hands and minimal use of their shoulders only. i.e. usually only swim on their back.

S2, SB1, SM2
– Swimmers are able to use their arms with no use of their hands, legs or trunk or have severe co-ordination problems in four limbs.

S3, SB2, SM3
– Swimmers with reasonable arm strokes but no use of their legs or trunk; swimmers with severe coordination problems in all limbs and swimmers with severe limb loss to four limbs.

S4, SB3, SM4
– Swimmers who use their arms and have minimal weakness in their hands but have no use of their trunk or legs; swimmers with coordination problems affecting all limbs but predominantly in the legs; swimmers with limb loss to three limbs.

S5, SB4, SM5
- Swimmers with full use of their arms and hands but no trunk or leg muscles; swimmers with coordination problems;

S6, SB5, SM6
– Swimmers with full use of their arms and hands with some trunk control but no useful leg muscles; swimmers with coordination problems (usually these athletes walk); swimmers with major limb loss of two limbs; Little People (< 130cm)

S7, SB6, SM7
- Swimmers with full use of their arms and trunk with some leg function; coordination or weakness problems on the same side of the body; major limb loss of two limbs.

S8, SB7, SM8
– Swimmers with full use of their arms and trunk with some leg function; limb loss of two limbs; swimmers with the use of one arm only

S9, SB8, SM9
- Unless there is an underlying medical condition usually all of these athletes will start out of the water. Examples are swimmers with severe weakness in one leg only; swimmers with very slight coordination problems; swimmers with one limb loss

S10, SB9, SM10
- Swimmers with very minimal weakness affecting the legs; swimmers with restriction of hip joint movement; swimmers with both feet deformed; swimmers with minor limb loss of part of a limb.

Visually impaired classesS11
- Swimmers are unable to see at all and are considered totally blind. They must wear blackened goggles if they swim in this class. They will also require someone to tap them when they are approaching a wall.

- Swimmers can recognise the shape of a hand and have some ability to see. There is a large range of vision ability within this class.

- Swimmers who are the most sighted, but are legally considered to be blind.

Intellectual disabilityS14
- Swimmers who have a recognised intellectual impairment according to international standards as recognised by the World Health Organisation, ie IQ testing of 75 and below.

Hearing impairmentS15
- Swimmers with a hearing impairment of 55 db and better in the better ear.

- Swimmers with an organ or bone transplant.

(Info courtesy of Dea Slattery)

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