Growth in Wheelchair Lacrosse Evident at Premier Ocean City Tournament

A premier lacrosse tournament in Ocean City, Md., saw dramatic growth in its wheelchair division this year, a credit owed in part to clinics sponsored across the country by Paralyzed Veterans of America and Wheelchair Lacrosse USA.

The Ocean City Lacrosse Classic – a destination tournament with more than 3,000 participants – features elite, masters, grandmasters and half-century division play for men and women. But this year, it was the wheelchair division that showed dramatic growth, with four teams traveling from around the country to compete.

“The tournament has included a wheelchair division for three years, but this is the first year it has had four teams,” said Erin Green, a consultant in the sports department of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “In past years, teams were built out of the people who showed up.”

The tournament’s Rolling Surf Wheelchair Division, which took place Aug. 13-16, 2015 at the Ocean City Parks & Recreation Center at Northside Park, included two teams affiliated with Paralyzed Veterans of America: the KKI-PVA Freestate team based out of Baltimore – co-funded by Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore – and the Milwaukee Eagles, affiliated with the Wisconsin chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The KKI-PVA Freestate earned second place in the tournament, following the first place San Diego Sharp Shooters, managed by Wheelchair Lacrosse USA co-founder Bill Lundstrom.

“The Ocean City Lacrosse Classic is an able-bodied tournament, but they have opened the wheelchair division because the lacrosse community is really supportive of what we’re doing,” Green said. “It’s something that’s growing and we’re planning on doing it every year and getting more teams to come out.”

Wheelchair lacrosse – developed by Wheelchair Lacrosse USA Founders Lundstrom and Ryan Baker – is similar to its able-bodied counterpart. The wheelchair version makes only a few modifications – from being played on a hockey rink versus a field to using a no-bounce ball – but all rules for the game remain the same.

Paralyzed Veterans of America in partnership with Wheelchair Lacrosse USA began sponsoring wheelchair lacrosse clinics across the country in May 2014. The clinics, which have since been hosted in five cities including Las Vegas and Louisville, offer training on the rules and techniques of the game, including chair mobility passing, catching and defense, after which attendees are divided into two teams to play a full scrimmage.

“To create teams, it’s more of a paraplegic sport,” Green said. “But we invite everyone to come out and participate in the clinics.