No, it’s not some movie about roller derbies or some crap like that. Murderball is a documentary about Quadrapalegic Rugby or Quad Rugby. Yes, it’s about people in wheelchairs playing rugby or what used to be called Murderball, hence its title. The great thing about this movie is that it takes us into a world we wouldn’t otherwise know much about, and gives us an insider’s look at the common humanity there. It forces people to see that we aren’t much different from each other.
Quadriplegia is a foreign country to most of us. Most people think that quadriplegics are totally paralyzed, but the movie discusses the different levels of quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is not necessarily total paralysis, but impairment in all four limbs. The degree of impairment is measured on a scale that ranges from 0.5 to 3.5. A murderball team can assemble a total of 8 points on the court at one time.
Quad rugby is a sport that involves teams of quadriplegics strapped into specially designed wheelchairs. As one interviewee described them, they’re something out of Mad Max. The flow of the game is something like basketball with a lot of rugby. Points are scored by crossing a goal line with a ball. The players with more manual dexterity handle, dribble and pass the ball. The others use their wheelchairs as blunt instruments, slamming into each other like bumper cars, to prevent the other team from scoring. Wheelchairs careen and smash and spill. It is not a gentle sport. It is a contact sport, and the intensity is palpable. “It’s basically ‘kill the man with the ball’.