Table tennis has been a part of the Paralympic program since the inaugural Games in 1960 and has been a vital part of the regional and national sports offerings in the United States since the start of the National Wheelchair Games in 1956. Table Tennis is played throughout the United States at local, regional and national competitions of both the USA Table Tennis as well as a part of various sports agencies for the disabled, such as the National Veterans Games, Adaptive Sports USA sanctioned events and Athletes Without Limits.
Table Tennis is played internationally in more than 100 countries, enabling athletes who participate in the sport to have the opportunity in numerous international competitions. International competitions are weighted by an international ranking system, affording players the chance to have multiple opportunities to play throughout the world, earning the right to play in International Regional Games, such as the Parapan American Championships, World Championships, as well as the prestigious Paralympic championships.
The rules governing Paralympic Table Tennis are comparable to those of its Olympic counterpart, the International Table Tennis Federation, with modifications for players using wheelchairs in service as well as in doubles competition. The same quick technique and finesse is apparent in the games of athletes from various disability groups, including men’s and women’s competitions, as well as individual and team contests. All matches are played best-of-five games to 11 points.
The equipment used for Paralympic Table Tennis meets the standards determined by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) for all participants of the sport.
Tables are nine feet long (2.74m), five feet wide (1.52m), and 2.5 feet high (76cm). The net is six inches high (15.25cm). There should be no obstacle in the construction of the table that would prevent a wheelchair player from fully accessing the playing surface of the table or present a risk of injury. The game is played with a 40mm diameter ball weighing 2.7g. Officially (according to the ITTF) players use a laminated wooden “racket” covered with rubber on both sides. The rubber surface must be an ITTF approved rubber.
- Classes 1-10 are designated for athletes with physical disabilities including orthopedic disabilities, neuro-motor disabilities, amputation, cerebral palsy, and congenital deficits. Players must meet minimal disability requirements for participation based on physical skills testing by a certified classifier.
- Classes 1-5 include players who are required to use wheelchairs for play due to deficits in sitting balance, range of motion, manual muscle testing, reaction time and range of reach.
- Classes 6-10 include players with physical disabilities who play standing, and may use orthotic devices, canes, crutches, or prosthetics to enable execution of the motor skills necessary for playing table tennis. In addition to the motor skills of the upper limbs as noted for classes 1-5, Classes 6-10 are assessed for standing balance, foot work, and rate of movements necessary to contact the ball. Functional classification is determined by and based upon assessment by a certified classifier through testing in the playing and mobility skills required for playing table tennis.
- Class 11 includes all players with intellectual disabilities. Initial eligibility for participation in Class 11 is determined by IQ testing determined to meet the minimal disability standard under the standards of INAS-FID. Subsequent technical sports playing skills, as well as standardized table tennis specific cognitive and perceptual skills assessment applications and must be performed by an ITTF/PTT certified classifier.