Wheelchair rugby was invented in 1976 in Winnipeg by a group of quadriplegic athletes who were looking for an alternative to wheelchair basketball. They wanted a sport that would allow players with reduced arm and hand function to participate equally. The sport they created, originally called murderball, is now known as wheelchair rugby. One of the founders, Duncan Campbell, still plays in BC, and has been on numerous organizing committees ranging from local to International level events. He is currently the National Director for the Bridging the Gap Program, and Wheelchair Rugby Development in Canada with the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association (CWSA).
The first international tournament was held in 1989 in Toronto, Canada, with teams from Canada, the USA and Great Britain. This was a breakthrough for developing international competition and co-operation.
In 1994, wheelchair rugby was officially recognised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as a Paralympic sport. The first Wheelchair Rugby World Championships were held in Nottwil, Switzerland, in 1995, with eight teams competing. In 1996, wheelchair rugby was included as a demonstration sport in the Atlanta Paralympic Games and in 2000 Wheelchair Rugby was included for the first time in the Paralympic Games competition programme as a full-medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.
Wheelchair rugby is currently actively played in twenty-six countries and is under development in at least eighteen more. The IWRF currently includes three zones: Zone 1 (The Americas), with six active countries; Zone 2 (Europe), with fourteen active countries; and Zone 3 (Asia-Oceania), with six active countries (Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, 2014).