What do the Para Athletics classifications mean?

If you’ve been keeping up to date with this year's Para Athletics World Championships or watched the Rio Paralympics last year, you’ll probably have noticed that every category comes with a number – but what do they actually mean? The guide below sheds a little light on what the Para Athletics classifications stand for.

Prefixes

The T prefix is used for track and jump events, including running and wheelchair races plus high jump and long jump. The F prefix is used for field events, which include throws such as discus and shot put.

Classification numbers

Each range of numbers represents an impairment type. The lower the number in each category, the more severe the impairment.

11-13: Visual impairment

11: Athletes have very unclear vision and/or no perception of light. These athetes compete with guide runners.

12: Athletics have a clearer level of vision than athletes in the 11 category and/or a field of vision with under 5 degrees radius.

13: Athletes have the most clear vision of the three groups, and/or a field of vision with under 20 degrees radius.

20: Intellectual impairment

These athletes have an intellectual impairment that affects their performance in their given activity, be it running, jumping or throwing. They must fulfill the World Health Organization’s definition of intellectual disability: an IQ below 75, an impairment in adaptive functioning (e.g. social, communication and domestic skills), and the disability must have occurred before the age of 18.

31-34: Co-ordination impairments (hypertonia, ataxia and athetosis), cerebral palsy

All athletes in this category compete in wheelchairs.

Hypertonia: Damage to the central nervous system

Ataxia: Disorders affecting co-ordination, balance and speech

Athetosis: Involuntary muscle contractions

31: Throwing events only. Athletics have severe hypertonia or athetosis, very poor functional range and/or control of movement in all four limbs and the trunk.

32: Athletes have moderate to severe co-ordination impairment across all four limbs and the trunk, but usually with slightly more function on one side or in the legs.

33: Athletes have moderate to severe co-ordination impairment of three to four limb, but almost full function in their least impaired arm.

34: Athletes are generally affected in all four limbs, but more in their lower than upper limbs. 

Hannah Cockroft, pictured below, is a T34 athlete.

35-38: Co-ordination impairments (hypertonia, ataxia and athetosis), cerebral palsy, foot racing

Hypertonia: Damage to the central nervous system

Ataxia: Disorders affecting co-ordination, balance and speech

Athetosis: Involuntary muscle contractions

35: Athletes are affected in all four limbs but moreso in the legs.

36: Athletes have moderate athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia which affects all four limbs. Arms are usually similarly or more affected than the legs.

37: Athletes have moderate hypertonia, ataxia or atetosis in one half of the body.

38: Athletes have evidence of hypertonia, ataxia and/or athletosis with mild to moderate co-ordination impairment in one to four limbs.

40-41: Short stature

40: Male athletes measure under 130cm, female athletes measure under 125cm. Athletes must be at least 18.

41: Male athletes measure under 145cm, female athletes measure under 140cm. Athletes must be at least 18.

42-44: Lower limb affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement

42: Athletes have one or more impairments of the hip and/or knee function in one or both legs. Athletes with both legs amputated above the knee are in this class.

David Whitehead, pictured below, is a T42 athlete.

43: Athletes have impairments on both lower legs and have a loss of function in their feet, ankles and/or lower legs. This includes athletes with both legs amputated below the knee.

44: Athletes have a lower leg impairment on one side with a loss of function in one foot, ankle and/or lower leg. This includes athletes with ankle or below knee amputation.

Sophie Kamlish, pictured below, and Jonnie Peacock are Team GB T44 athletes.

45-47: Upper limb affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement

45: Athletes have impairments of both arms affecting their shoulder and/or elbow joints. This includes athletes with both arms amputated above the elbow.

46: Athletes have an impairment of one arm affecting their shoulder and/or elbow joint on one side.

47: Athletes have an impairment of one arm with a loss of function at the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

51-54: Limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement

All athletes in this category compete in wheelchairs.

51: Athletes have limited shoulder power and find it hard to straighten their elbows for the pushing action required in wheelchair racing. They have no trunk (midsection) muscle power.

52: Athletes use shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles to power their wheelchairs. There may be poor muscle power in the fingers and wasting of the hand muscles. They generally do not have trunk (midsection) muscle power.

53: Athletes have fully functioning arms but non-functioning abdominal and lower spine muscles.

54: Athletes have fully functioning arms and some functioning or fully functioning trunk (midsection) muscles. They may also have some function in the legs.