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The effect of wheelchair handrim tube diameter on propulsion efficiency and force application (tube diameter and efficiency in wheelchairs)

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4 Author(s)
van der Linden, M. ; Fac. of Human Movement Sci., Vrije Univ., Amsterdam, Netherlands ; Valent, L. ; Veeger, H.E.J. ; van der Wonde, L.H.V.

To determine the optimum tube diameter of a standard handrim-propelled wheelchair, the effect of tube size and shape on physiological and kinetic parameters was studied. Six able-bodied male subjects performed two tests on a wheelchair ergometer. Tests were performed against work loads comparable to every day use and with two different handrim tube diameters, a handrim with an oval 25 by 30 mm diameter (LR) and one with an 18 mm diameter (SR). The large tube diameter (LR) yielded slightly but significantly lower values for the physiological parameters. Gross mechanical efficiency was on average 7% for the LR and 6.3% for the SR. No significant results were found for force application parameters related to the direction of the applied force or the torque by the hand onto the handrim surface. As technique parameters could not explain the higher mechanical efficiency (ME) when using the LR, it is suggested that hand grip constraints in the push phase (finger flexor activity) might be responsible. Another possible explanation is that with a better hand grip using LR, less stabilization by the larger muscle groups at the elbow and shoulder is needed. The measured technique parameters seem to be determined by geometric constraints of the arm and shoulder. The technique requirements resulting from the forced trajectory of the Propulsion movement are also likely to determine the technique parameters. Regarding the low mechanical efficiency of handrim propulsion, which is partly caused by the forced unfavorable trajectory of the hand, an alternative propulsion mechanism is suggested

Published in:

Rehabilitation Engineering, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:4 ,  Issue: 3 )