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Learn all about the classification system in Para-Swimming

Classification is the grouping of athletes in swimming to ensure that there is a fair playing field. There are two types of classification: physical (S1-S10) and disability specific (S11-S14).

Learn all about classification

Athletes competing in Paralympic sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport. Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called classification.

Physical Impairment

There are eight different types of physical impairments:

  • Impaired muscle power

  • Impaired passive range of movement

  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency

  • Leg-length difference

  • Short stature

  • Hypertonia

  • Ataxia

  • Athetosis

In addition to athletes with physical impairment, athletes with a visual or intellectual impairment are also included in the classification system.

Click here for further information on Physical classification.

Visual impairment 

Visual Impairment occurs when there is damage to one or more of the components of the vision system, which can include:

  • impairment of the eye structure/receptors

  • impairment of the optic nerve/optic pathways

  • impairment of the visual cortex

Click here for further information on Visual classification.                  

Intellectual Impairment

Athletes with an intellectual impairment/learning disability are limited in regards to IQ and their adaptive behaviour, which is diagnosed before the age of 18 years.

Click here for further information on Intellectual classification.

Further details regarding eligibility can be found on the IPC website.

Once classified, swimmers are allocated a classification status.

Where a swimmer is allocated a classification (S1-14) they will also be allocated relevant exception codes.

There are a number of impairments that do not meet the eligibility criteria as follows*:

ADHD                          Ehlers’ Danlos Syndrome                     

Arthritis                        Epilepsy

Aspergers                    Haemophilia

Asthma                        Hydrocephalus

Autistic spectrum          Obesity

Cystic Fibrosis             Learning Difficulties

Diabetes                      Scoliosis

Dyspraxia                    Transplants

RSD (Reflex Symphatetic Dystrophy including CRPS - Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)

* Please note that this list is not exhaustive, however provides a guide.

It must be noted that swimmers that have a diagnosis that meets the eligibility criteria for classification may still not be sufficiently impaired to gain a classification.

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