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Volume 45 Number 1, 2008
   Pages 73 — 84

Abstract - Curb descent testing of suspension manual wheelchairs

Andrew M. Kwarciak, MS;1-3 Rory A. Cooper, PhD;1-4* Shirley G . Fitzgerald, PhD1-2

1Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center of Excellence in Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA; Departments of 2Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, 3Bioengineering, School of Engineering, and 4Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Abstract — Manual wheelchair users are subjected to whole-body vibrations (WBV) on a regular basis as they traverse obstacles and uneven surfaces. One way users could protect themselves from secondary injuries related to WBV is by using a suspension manual wheelchair. This study investigated the ability of suspension manual wheelchairs to reduce seat accelerations during curb descents of various heights (5, 10, and 15 cm). Sixteen manual wheelchairs (four suspension, four folding, four rigid, and four rigid titanium) were tested. Suspension wheelchairs transmitted significantly lower peak seat accelerations than folding wheelchairs during the 5 cm curb descents (p = 0.048) and significantly lower frequency-weighted peak seat accelerations during the 5 and 10 cm curb descents (p = 0.03 for both heights). However, when the suspension wheelchair Quickie XTR (Sunrise Medical; Carlsbad, California) was removed from the analysis, the suspension wheelchairs were not significantly different from the nonsuspension wheelchairs. When weight was considered, the suspension wheelchairs had significantly lower peak seat accelerations than the lighter rigid wheelchairs during 5 cm curb descents (p = 0.047). While suspension manual wheelchairs offer some reduction in WBV during curb descents, their limitations should be considered when a wheelchair is selected for everyday use.

Key words: acceleration, curb descent, folding frame, manual wheelchair, rehabilitation, rigid frame, suspension, vibration suppression, wheelchair use, whole-body vibrations.

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