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Supplement Number 1
Volume 42 Number 3, May/June 2005
Pages 21 — 34

Abstract - Low-impact wheelchair propulsion: Achievable and acceptable

W. Mark Richter, PhD;* Peter W. Axelson, MSME

BioMobility Laboratory, Beneficial Designs, Nashville, TN
Abstract — Incidence of upper-limb overuse injuries among the manual wheelchair population has been found to be associated with hand-rim loading characteristics such as impact and peak loading on the hand rim during propulsion. One proposed method to reduce impact and peak loading is the use of a compliant hand rim, one that can displace relative to the wheel when impacted by the hand. A Variable Compliance Hand-Rim Prototype (VCHP) was designed and used to experimentally optimize the level of compliance through subjective and qualitative propulsion outcome measures. Seventeen manual wheelchair users participated in the study. Subjects propelled their wheelchairs using the VCHP set to each of three compliance levels through a maneuverability test course, as well as on a range of grade conditions using a wheelchair treadmill. Biomechanical measures such as peak hand-rim force, rate of loading at impact, and metabolic demand were assessed during treadmill propulsion bouts. No adverse biomechanical side effects to compliance were found. As compliance was increased, user acceptance decreased. All the subjects found the lowest level of compliance (C1) to be acceptable. Use of the C1 hand rim significantly reduced the peak rate of rise in the hand-rim force on the 6% and 8% grades and significantly reduced the average rate of loading for the 2%, 4%, and 6% grades. This study showed that low-impact wheelchair propulsion is both achievable and acceptable to users.
Key words: biomechanics, compliance, hand rim, low impact, propulsion, pushrim, rehabilitation, repetitive stress injuries, spinal cord injury, wheelchair.

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