An 18-year-old basketball player is fighting to stay in the game after initially being banned due to his prosthetic legs.
High school senior Bailey Roby plays basketball while wearing “blade” prosthetics. The curved prosthetics were popularized by South African Olympic-sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
Roby, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was born with fibular hemimelia, which meant he was born with no fibula bones in his legs. At six months old, his legs were amputated and he grew up using prosthetic legs.
Roby has played basketball since the eighth grade. His father, Scott Roby, said he usually plays towards the end of the game when the outcome has already been decided.
“When he does get in the game, it takes on a different speed is the best way to put it,” said Roby, who said the players will try to get the ball to Roby so he can shoot it.
Although he’s been playing for five years, this year his use of prosthetic legs was debated as a safety hazard by the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), which regulates high school basketball in the state.
According to the Denver Post, Roby was given an authorization form to play when he was on the junior varsity team for Mountain Vista High School. However, after he joined the varsity team Roby officials were more wary about letting him play.
Initially Roby played a few games this year without official authorization. During a game earlier this month Roby was warming up when a referee asked if he was authorized. After admitting he wasn’t authorized, he was benched for the game. This time when CHSAA debated his authorization they declined to allow him in future games for safety concerns.
“It’s a ridiculous argument,” said Scott Roby, who said his son's prosthetics have never caused an injury on the court. “He’s capable of running up and down the court, he knows his limitations and the other kids have figured it out.”
CHSAA posted on their website that under the rules of the National Federation of State High School Association, the referee cannot permit any athlete to wear equipment that in their judgment is dangerous to other players.
Additionally, they posted that reasonable accommodations should be made to players with disabilities although, “The accommodations should not fundamentally alter the sport, heighten risk to the athlete/others or place opponents at a disadvantage.”
While initially CHSAA said that Roby could not play, they eventually revised their decision so that Roby would be allowed to play on a case by case basis. Under that ruling, Roby could still not be allowed to play if the opposing school does not agree to let Roby play.
“A plan needs to be clearly communicated on when the participation will happen, how the players will remain safe, and ensure that interference and collisions are as remote a possibility as possible,” the CHSAA said in a statement.
Scott Roby said his son was “stoked” by the decision and hoped it would mean that he would be able to play throughout the rest of his senior year.
“He’s very happy. All we wanted from the beginning is to play and to be eligible,” Scott Roby said.
He also said he hoped this case would make CHSAA give more consideration to other disabled athletes.
“We’re concerned for the next kid too,” said Roby.