Towards successful cerebral palsy football programs: A conceptual model

Author Identifiers

ORCID: 0000-0002-5513-4482

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Rob Newton

Second Advisor

Dr Fadi Ma’ayah

Third Advisor

Dr Eric Drinkwater

Fourth Advisor

Dr Craig Harms


Cerebral Palsy (CP) football, despite global popularity for people with CP, is ultimately underdeveloped and competition standards are inconsistent around the world. Recent exclusion from the Paralympic games has emphasised its need for revitalisation and development on the international stage. The purposes of this research are first, to establish the value of CP football as an adaptive sport, and subsequently examine participatory and competitive determinants of success. The first study in this thesis examined anecdotal evidence of perceived physical, physiological, psychological and cognitive benefits within the team environment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participating members of the Western Australia CP Football (WACPF) program and personal experiences were examined using interpretive phenomenological analysis. The research identified improvements in all components of health outcomes investigated, including: lower-limb strength, flexibility, stamina, body composition, walking and running ability, confidence, self-esteem, physical self-efficacy, happiness, acceptance of disability, social skills, teamwork ability, sense of belonging, leadership skills, feeling of acceptance, motor coordination, football-related tactical awareness and spatial awareness. The second study monitored training and competition time-motion analyses of the WACPF over two seasons, as well as measures of fitness and anthropometry. Normative values of height, weight, speed, agility, vertical jump height, aerobic capacity, as well as training and competition loads measured in relative heart rate zones and speed thresholds, were established. No significant differences were found between training and match demands, thereby demonstrating training specificity. The third and fourth studies investigated the goal-scoring characteristics in sub-elite and elite CP football via performance analysis of the Australian and World Championships in 2017 and 2018 and chi-squared analyses of goals scored in open play were compared. Goals were predominantly (>85%) scored in open play and from the middle front third (88%). The critical pass through the last line of defence was identified to be an effective method in creating goals. Organised build-ups using four or less passes presented the most successful method of ball delivery. Coaches and support staff in CP football should structure programs based on findings to create a stimulating and effective team environment. Additionally, game-based training and the establishment of an elite pathway is recommended to all CP football programs.

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