Alan Thorp with bowler Serena Bonnell, who won a silver medal in the recent Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham (para women’s pairs with Cheryl Lindfield)


by bqmedia

By Alan Thorp, Medical Classifier IBD

Athletes competing in the sport of lawn bowls involving different disability groups require classification to play and compete at State, national and international levels.
Players do not require to be classified if competing at club or district level.
The disability groups are:
• athletes with a visual disability.
• athletes with a physical disability.
• athletes with a intellectual disability.

Classification systems provide for fair and equitable competition at all levels.

In the classifying process there are two classifiers involved who work as a team.
Medical Classifier – can be appointed from the following professions once having completed and successfully attained all the necessary requirements:
• Medical doctors
• Physiotherapists
• Occupational therapists, or other health professionals with required medical knowledge,
including anatomy, physiology and pathology.

Technical Classifiers – can be appointed if:
• experienced in competitive bowls.
• an accredited coach
• an accredited umpire/official.
Note: Medical and Technical classifiers classify bowlers with physical disability only. Bowlers with a visually impairment are classified by optometrists and bowlers with an intellectual disability are classified by psychologists.


  1. Minimal Disability: A bowler must provide evidence of their medical condition which leads to their functional limitations. An International Bowls for the Disabled Inc. (IBD) Certificate of Diagnosis form must be completed by the athlete’s doctor prior to the classification being performed.
  2. In order for the classification process to occur, the athlete must have an eligible condition. Classification will not proceed unless this evidence has been provided as identified on the Certificate of Diagnosis. Once established that an eligible condition exists, then the following will occur (I will only briefly outline the procedure at this stage just to give a small view of what’s involved).
  3. The athlete must consent for the classification to take place (signed form consent for classification). Next, they must have a thorough understanding of the IBD classification process involved. It is important that they understand the IBD classification involves a bench test (medical) and a bowling action (technical) test, plus observing the bowlers first performance in competition for a classification to be complete.
    Bench test: (medical) – the IBD classifier will examine all relevant movements and muscle groups. It is also important that the athlete understands that athletes are put into classes according to their level of function not according to their diagnosis/ disability. The bench test is only performed by medical classifiers, but technical classifiers can be in attendance if approved by the medical classifier.
    Technical test: (on green) – a technical classifier accesses the athletes functional strength and balance in the delivery of the jack and a bowl. Numerous tests are required in this process and are performed on both ambulant and wheelchair bowlers.
    • Once having been observed in their first performance, both classifiers in consultation will allocate the athlete a class of B5 to B8 and a status. The athlete at this stage would either be given a card showing these details if the classification was conducted with an International Classifier in attendance, and, if not, they would be given a form showing details if classified by a National and Technical classifier only.

I have given a brief overview without going into many other formalities involved in the process of classification. Lawn bowls is an all inclusive sport and having been involved recently with the State Multi-Disability Championships at the Chermside Bowls Club, I hope many more people with a disability get the enthusiasm with our wonderful game, and have a go.

I encourage those people with the necessary qualifications to seriously think about becoming a medical or technical classifier. In Queensland, we are seeking more classifiers and if you are interested please contact Bowls Queensland for further details. I can assure you that once you commit it will be a wonderful experience, the Multi-Disability athletes are extremely talented and wonderful people to work with.
Bowls Queensland: Phone (07) 3354 0777 or Alan Thorp 0482678297.