Objectives Paralympic Judo is a combat sport for athletes with visual impairments. It became an official Paralympic discipline in 1988 for men, and in 2004 for women. Following IBSA rules the classification panel groups athletes into three classes according their vision ability: B3 – moderate vision loss, B2 – severe vision loss, and B1 – totally blind athletes. Athletes in Para judo with different degree of vision impairment compete against each other in different weight categories. Many athletes, coaches and officials argued that this fact can influence the outcome of a fight, and that B1 athletes have less chances of winning against B2 or B3 athletes. That may lead to a situation where B1 athletes have fewer chance of being selected for the National Team and therefore will no longer stay in the sport. The goal of this study was to validate the above mentioned assumptions and to determine the win:lose ratios in fights between athletes of different classes, and also to analyse the number of athletes in different classes.
Methods We analysed the outcomes of 1,640 official fights across a total of 8 major international Para judo competitions for the period of 2007–2015. The results were obtained from the IBSA website. The win:lose ratio in fights B1 against B2, B1 against B3, B2 against B3 in both male and female athletes in all weight categories was analysed. We calculated the percentage of competing athletes of different classes through all weight categories.
Results B1 won B2 ratio was 36.1%, B1 won B3 ratio was 31.4%, whereas the B2 won B3 ratio = 50.4%, and B3 won B2 ratio = 49.6%. The number of B1 athletes decreased by 7% over this period: 26% in 2007 and 19% in 2015, the number of B2 athletes increased by 6%: 43% in 2007 and 49% in 2015, the number of B3 athletes did not changed significantly: 31% in 2007 and 32% in 2015 (Figure 1).
Conclusions The results indicate a significant correlation between the level of vision function and the fight outcomes: totally blind athletes have fewer chances of winning against athletes with some retained vision. It might be due to the fact that athletes’ performance is significantly determined by vision impairment. Vision has a great impact on the functional capabilities of the athlete, such as the ability to train and to operate an effective daily routine. Athletes with partial vision loss of a different degree (B2 and B3) have comparable chances of winning each fight. Our study demonstrated that the total number of competing judo athletes increased over recent years, but the number of totally blind (B1) athletes is decreasing. That may be because of the reduced opportunities to win fights against B2 or B3 class athletes. Taken together this data highlights the importance of including functional assessment tests during classification in IBSA Judo. Therefore modification and improvement of classification procedures and/or technical rules of IBSA judo will ensure fair competitions for all athletes. Further research of sport specific parameters such as coordination, posture stability etc., and assessment of the impact of vision loss on the training and daily activity of the athletes is necessary for the development of a sport specific evidence based classification tests in IBSA judo.
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