Topical Review: Understanding Vision Impairment and Sports Performance through a Look at Paralympic Classification

Robert Chun, Marieke Creese, Robert W. Massof

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


SIGNIFICANCE: To provide meaningful competition that is equitable for Paralympic athletes, classification systems are vital to determine which athletes are eligible to compete in adapted forms of sports and to group athletes for competition. Our discussion has important implications to inform how we should approach visual function assessment in sports performance. Sport participation positively benefits individuals with low vision. In particular, adapted sports exist to provide people with visual disabilities an avenue for participating in recreational activity. High-performance low-vision athletes can participate in Paralympic sports but need to be properly classified based on the severity of their vision impairment. The model for Paralympic classification was initiated by Sir Ludwig Guttmann in 1952 in a rehabilitation clinic for soldiers with spinal cord injuries. Today, the International Paralympic Committee mandates that international sports federations develop evidence-based sport-specific classification systems to ensure that eligible disabled athletes have an opportunity for meaningful competition. With the current classification system, only visual acuity and visual field measures are considered to determine an athlete's eligibility to compete, leaving room to expand our understanding of visual function requirements for individual sports. In this topical review, we discuss the origins of Paralympic sports, limitations of current classification methods, and requirements toward achieving evidence-based sport-specific evaluation systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-763
Number of pages5
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry


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