By Kevin Saul, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell
Boccia is a completely inclusive sport that can be played by anyone. It dates back to ancient times in its earliest form, however, was adapted more recently as a way of enabling players with cerebral palsy and a range of other motor and non-motor disabilities to participate both socially and competitively in sport.
Games can be played either individually or as teams.
Players sit in order to play and can throw, kick or use a ramp (with or without assistance) in order to throw or roll a ball.
Each side has six balls - either red or blue - and the aim of the game is to get as close to the white “jack” as possible. The jack ball is thrown first. Play then continues with the side further away from the jack continuing to throw until they either get closest or use up all of their balls. Once both sides have thrown then the points are added up – one point is awarded for each ball closer to the jack than the other side’s nearest ball.
Boccia is also a Paralympic sport with different classifications depending upon functional ability.
My Involvement in boccia
Irwin Mitchell has a national partnership with Boccia England, the UK governing body for boccia.
Through this, I volunteered to train as a boccia session leader in 2017. This has been hugely rewarding and very different from my day job as a medical negligence lawyer representing patients with injuries.
The sessions I've run have been attended by children and adults with including motor, visual and cognitive impairments. Sessions have been organised within a special school in Manchester and also at the Regional NHS Spinal Injuries Unit at Southport.
Through this work I've been involved in developing the same class of children week on week for a term, watching them grow in confidence and ability. They have demonstrated a willingness to lead and have been very competitive, some for the first time in their lives. Their teachers have been really impressed by the impact of boccia on the pupils’ wellbeing and development, and it’s clear that it is a real highlight of the week for them.
A rewarding experience
Working with adult patients with spinal injuries has been a different experience but equally rewarding. The majority of these adults have suffered traumatic injury and can still remember their life prior to injury.
They can be downbeat and frustrated that they're no longer able to engage in sport and other leisure activities which they previously enjoyed. I've found that boccia has enabled them to rediscover their passion for sport. It might not be high-speed but it's definitely a competitive and challenging sport. In my experience, the players quickly develop a team mindset, with the usual banter that this engenders. It’s common for decisions to be questioned and, as a referee, to feel the player’s eyes watching you intently as you measure ball distances.
As well as being an entertaining and competitive game, boccia gives players independence and belief in themselves, it encourages leadership and friendship and aids rehabilitation.
I would recommend boccia to anyone. More information, including where to play, an be found on the Boccia England website.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting and helping people access rehabilitation following an injury at our dedicated personal injury section.