I am Duncan Campbell - in 1976, I invented wheelchair rugby with a group of friends in a small gym in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I’m the director of development for Wheelchair Rugby Canada and was recently awarded the International Paralympic Order. I’m also the National Development Director for Bridging the Gap, a program that helps transition people into the world of wheelchair sport.

Proof! http://i.imgur.com/9lLDCnO.jpg

Ask me anything!

EDIT: Thanks everyone for the great questions! It was fun to answer and chat about some old memories. I can now confirm that my toothbrush is white.

EDIT2: Returned to respond to some unanswered questions. Hope to see you at the Canada Cup!

If you're in the Vancouver area, come watch the Canada Cup at the Richmond Oval! If you're not in the area, you can catch me and other awesome webcasters on the live stream.


Duncan Campbell

Comments: 81 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

uberlad12 karma

My only experience with wheelchair sporting is from Friday Night Lights, which I thought was a downright inspiring and thoughtful portrayal. Given those types of unique experiences, what would you say is your very best life advice?

theduncster6 karma

Friday Night Lights was a very good portrayal, one of the best I've seen (and I've seen them all.) Mark Zupan, the captain of Team USA, acted as an advisor.

My best life advice is to live it! Go and do things! Don't think you can't do ANYTHING. If you go all out, you'll enjoy your life more.

karmanaut10 karma

Do you have some videos of wheelchair rugby online anywhere that we could see? I'd like to see how it works.

theduncster8 karma

The IWRF website and the Canada Cup are good resources. There's also a fantastic documentary called Murderball which covers the sport behind the scenes well.

gunslinger_00610 karma

You are a badass, people who play murderball are badasses.

Everyone who plays that sport is in inspiration to fully able and differently abled (is that the preferred term?) people alike.

Keep on keepin on.

theduncster6 karma


Person with a physical disability is the preferred term, I think. Differently abled is confusing. (Please) don't use handicapped because it implies that you're limited in your abilities. And the terminology will probably change again.

machinehuman7 karma

First of all, thank you for inventing such a great sport! It's a bright powerful sparkle of life to practice sports in a condition such as paraplegia; inspiration for all of us. How much for a competitive custom-made sports wheelchair today in USA? Cheers!

theduncster6 karma

Thanks! Depends on the sport that you want the chair for. A good wheelchair rugby chair can range from $4500 - $10,000.

gimpguy7 karma

Hey Duncan, how does it feel to have created a legacy game that's changed the lives of thousands of peoples lives in countries around the world? Did you ever imagine that Murderball would become what it is today, you know, a Paralympic sport and all.

theduncster5 karma

No, I never imagined it. Wasn't really the intent, but it's awfully cool! It's fantastic to see so many people playing, watching, and enjoying this game... that came out of a rehab gym thirty years ago. I can't really put it into words.

ArtVandelay257 karma

Hey Duncan - What's your favorite memory from playing or being involved with wheelchair rugby?

theduncster6 karma

I have favourite memories every time I play! What can I say? It would probably be when the Canadian players, in Canada, decided to change the Nationals trophy to the Campbell Cup and surprise me with that at the National Championships. I mean, that was unbelievable. Especially because it had come from the players.

scass894 karma

How often do you deal with the perception that wheelchair rugby competes in the Special Olympics?

theduncster4 karma

It's a fair question. Not as often as you might think, but it does rear it's ugly head once a year. It's very irritating. Especially since, at the paralympic level, it is not a social sport. It's very athletic. People need to train for years, and to be mistaken for a special olympic sport can be very upsetting for some people.

Streetlights_People4 karma

What was the most difficult thing you encountered getting wheelchair rugby off the ground?

theduncster4 karma

The fact that initially the sport was called murderball and had no parallel able-bodied sport, in the US, especially, at the time, they wouldn't support any sport that did not have a parallel able-bodied sport. I know that I had many arguments with people in the US around this bone of contention, and it may have actually contributed to the name change, even though it is not an exact parallel to rugby. It took a long time to get over that hurdle, but once we got by that, things progressed very quickly.

Streetlights_People3 karma

Is there any movement to change the name back to Murderball now that it is established?

theduncster3 karma

Not that I am aware of, but it is used a lot now as a promotional title; without changing the name of the sport back. I know at certain events, such as at the National Championships, we sold a lot of shirts with the name murderball. It's simply become a useful tool for promotion.

c6rugger4 karma

Hi Duncan, Are you concerned with the classification discrepancies, i.e. players with more function than their actual classifications and if so, are you aware of anything being done to ensure that there is a standard system being followed worldwide? Thanks

theduncster7 karma

Loaded quesion! And yes. I am concerned about players being misclassified not only in the high levels but in all levels of the sport. I've expressed these concerns repeatedly, and the classifiers work hard to ensure that this doesn't happen, but it still seems to.

Personally, I think that the classification system, which is based on spinal cord injury, needs to be revamped to adequately address other disabilities and injuries that are involved in the sport, to try and rectify these situations. I also know, that there is a "code" among players which needs to be, somewhere down the line, broken down so that players can't get away with sandbagging the classifiers. I'm very concerned.

c6rugger4 karma

Thank you for your honest opinion. Is there, or are you aware of anything in "the works" to address these issues?

theduncster5 karma

The classifiers are currently working on sections of the system, trying to improve them. Currently, they're working on hand function. But, I have to say when they did their improvements to the system on trunk function, very little changed. I don't know why, but changes that the players expected to happen, didn't. There are other systems out there that are being reviewed .... but I don't think there is anything happening officially at this point. We have looked at wheelchair basketball's system, Paralympic swimming's system, and I personally thinking that a combination of these systems may provide us with improvements. We need to look at other systems to help with other disabilities we're seeing now. We basically guess at the true functionality. I don't think that we're doing badly - we're considered one of the best sports for our classification model. But that doesn't mean that it can't be improved.

wheels16553 karma

How do you feel about women in the game? Should it be coed or should they have their own league?

theduncster6 karma

It IS co-ed. Currently, it should stay co-ed. Currently there are not enough women for a women's league, but currently there are only a few countries in the world that could support a women's league. Currently.

cheersdom3 karma

Loved the movie, but haven't followed the sport since - good to see you're doing well.

Q: What kind of programs do you have with the military / VA ?

theduncster5 karma

It's going to be different in every program. I know that the US has MAJOR programs for referral, and in Canada we have the Soldier On program which has referred people to us, but it's not as thorough. It's a very thin connection where they tend to maintain their associations with the clients they have and refer them when they feel it's necessary. It's not a very open program. Their focus is on getting people with disabilities back to work.

simonjp3 karma

Hi Duncan! I had an amazing time during the Paralympics in London and Wheelchair Rugby was absolutely the highlight. I had a couple of questions:

  1. How important are spectators to the game? Have you made changes to the rules or promotion to appeal more to potential fans?
  2. The setup appears quite expensive; is there anything that can be done to enable more people to play?

theduncster4 karma


  1. It is always fantastic for the players to play in front of spectators, but I can tell you that most of them are used to playing in front of family and friends. I can tell you that the 40 second clock was introduced to stop the "delay" game that coaches started to use. But when we change the game, it's usually to make the game a little smoother, faster, and more exciting. Which is great for the spectators. It's awesome when you have the venue, and wheelchair rugby can fill those large venues, and you can hear other athletes, fans, and spectators cheering for them.

  2. Many people in the world probably 20-30% of the people playing are not playing with a $4500 chair. A lot of athletes donate their older chairs, many organizations have loan programs, and we try at the local level to keep the sport as inexpensive as we can. We don't want to scare away players because of the cost. In actuality, all you need is a gym and a volleyball to play the game. In fact, that's how we started. I would say that every sport in the paralympic world has become more expensive to participate in as the competitive levels get higher and the rewards for winning get bigger.

UltraSheer3 karma

How has life changed for people with spinal cord injuries since the 70s when you invented Murderball?

theduncster2 karma

Holy shit! How long of an answer do you want? That's a tough one. Inititally, when I was first hurt, the choice I had in manual wheelchairs was colour. I could have green, or black. That was it. Thousands of things have changed. There were no curb cuts, no accessible housing units, there was bugger all. Now all of those things exist, and you can get involved in almost any sport you want to now.

The whole reason that wheelchair rugby was invented was because there were so few options for team sports, and they're an entity of their own, and many people, including me, need a place to be called a gym rat.

I could go on for DAYS on that question.

Toothbrush_Color_Fan3 karma

What color toothbrush do you use?

theduncster3 karma

I think it's white.

Who is the most famous person who has replied with a toothbrush colour?

n1gelg3 karma

Hi Duncan Are you concerned that Wheelchair Rugby has an increasing number of non-SCI players, and that such players are used by international teams as the key to success? Do you think that Wheelchair Rugby is better or worse for the inclusion of such players? Thanks Nigel Goddard (GBR)

theduncster4 karma

Nigel Goddard There have been non-spinal cord players in wheelchair rugby since it's inception. I don't feel that they make the game worse, I actually think they make the game better and as teams use them, 0.5s and 1.0s, who are traditionally spinal cord injured become more valuable to their team. I also think that currently, the best team in the world, the USA, is predominantly spinal cord injured. I do think we need to change the classification system to make some of these players "worth more" on the floor.

GooberGibbs2 karma

How long does a pair of your shoes last?

theduncster7 karma

Ha! How long do your gloves last? My shoes last for 20 years. My shoes last until they come BACK into style.

MrLaughter2 karma

Hey Duncan, loved the documentary. What is a recent or favorite dream of yours that you are willing to recall for us?


theduncster2 karma

I wish I was 20 years older and could play as much as people do now.

Uter_Zorker2 karma

Why is USA Rugby so fascinated with aligning itself with wheelchair rugby? Though both sports involve the same word in their name they have little to nothing in common otherwise.

Edit: I work in the rugby union world so I'm sincerely curious about this. USA Rugby frequently posts ads online about upcoming wheelchair events. No other international rugby union organization does.

theduncster2 karma

In actual fact, the international rugby board is aligned with the international wheelchair rugby board, and is encouraging that alignment. In reality, it helps an able bodied sport be accepted in the Olympics to have a parallel Paralympic sport. Wheelchair rugby has been a Paralympic sport since Sydney in 2000. Rugby will be, or I think may have been, a demo event in London.

Able bodied rugby has a number of variants, so even though the game is not exactly the same, there are similarities in the personality with the hitting, the similar scoring mechanics, and probably initial at the league level, there are some social similarities. Although the game is not exactly the same, there are some similarities.

Frajer2 karma

Are most wheelchair rugby players born paraplegic or do they become paraplegic due to say a car accident?

theduncster3 karma

Most wheelchair rugby players are spinal cord injuries as a result of traumatic accidents (ie car accidents, sport accidents, etc. etc.)

NorbitGorbit2 karma

is there any talk within the community to move away from the 'murderball' moniker?

theduncster4 karma

I think people like to use the name murderball as a promotional tool. It hits a demographic of people who are more high-risk in nature, and want to see a fast hard hitting sport. This demographic was not as prominent when we changed the title, but I can't see anyone wanting to bring it back officially either.

Thinkyt2 karma

I really hope this isn't seen as offensive, because it's not my intention to be at all, but do you think that there are/will be any games that cannot be made 'wheelchair' friendly?

Related, when do you think a game is changed so much in it's disabled format that it has actually become a new game altogether?

theduncster9 karma

I don't think that any sport can't be made wheelchair/para friendly somehow, if someone who is in a wheelchair decides that they want to do it. It's hard for me to think of a sport right now that has not been adapted in some form. Even skateboarding.

I will say that wheelchair rugby of it's own. It is not a game that has an able-bodied parallel. And I don't find the question offensive at all.

Update: We got one. Tightrope walking may never be updated for wheelchairs.

Sullyville1 karma

I am writing a novel with a character who is a wheelchair-user. Is there any kind of horrible stereotype or cliche that pisses you off that I should avoid?

theduncster3 karma

Yes. That people who use wheelchairs can't take care of themselves. It's a terrible stereotype. Please take care that your person is independent and can take care of themselves.

Lispeth1 karma

Hi Duncan. Should players (+50y) get minus .5 points in international games? OC, WC etc.

theduncster2 karma

No, they can get a -.5 in their own countries, and in leagues, but I think if you're playing in the international level, you need to be able to play at that level. Or someone younger takes your spot.

ksanthra1 karma

Managed to see the semi-finals and finals at the Beijing Olympics. I'm a Kiwi so was disappointed that New Zealand was knocked out before I could see them.

I went along anyway, it was fantastic. Such an amazing sport and quite brutal. Those guys are tough.

I'd encourage anyone to go see some murderball sometime.

So, a question. How easy is it to go watch a game?

theduncster2 karma

It's very easy if there's a game in your neighbourhood, and it's unlikely that there's any cost. You need to check websites for games, tournaments in your area. The other place to check is the IWRF website for any international games in your area.

gimpguy1 karma

So I imagine you've seen some great games over the years! What are some of your favorite memories, or moments from a game that stands out above the rest?

Also, any favorite hits or outstanding plays that you can tell us about?

theduncster6 karma

It's got to be the Canada vs. US game in London. I think my favourite memory, or my most emotional memory in all the games that I have been an spectator at was that game, which Canada won, by 1, in the last second. It was emotional for a number of reasons. 1, the US is the largest rivalry of Canada. 2, the guy who scored was someone I got involved in the sport, Garrett Hickling. 3, helping on the play was another player I've mentored, Trevor Hirschfield. It was probably the best moment, of all the games I've seen, in my time.

petrichorrr1 karma

Are you friends with Mark Zupan, and if so, can I be BFFs with both of you?

theduncster1 karma

No, unfortunately I've never met the fellow.

dailymultipleusp1 karma

Do you like Rush?

theduncster3 karma

No. It's interesting because I'm a huge music fan, and they're probably one of the few rock and roll bands out of Canada I don't like.

But I will ask you, do you like the Tragically Hip?

theduncster2 karma

Or Wide Mouth Mason? 54-40?