The influence of wheelchair mechanical parameters and human physical fitness on propulsion effort
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The majority of wheelchair studies that attempt to evaluate propulsion efforts across wheelchair configurations examines long and steady propulsion. However, the results of these studies cannot represent performance during daily maneuvers, which include changes in speed and direction. Although each component of wheelchair configuration was widely studied, the knowledge has a limitation to describe the mechanical properties of wheelchairs systematically. Physical fitness was proved to be related to health status and exercise performance. In addition, the biomechanical characteristics of the user were shown to influence wheelchair maneuvers. However, it is still unknown how these human factors would influence wheelchair propulsions together. Therefore, the overall objective of the study is to define the relative influence of mechanical wheelchair parameters as well as individual physical and biomechanical variables on propulsion efforts during over-ground maneuvers. The first aim is to develop and validate a test that quantifies the impact of wheelchair configurations on frictional energy loss, particularly loss related to turning trajectories. The second aim is to develop and validate a testing protocol designed to measure maximum propulsion strength, which will test subjects in a realistic condition – while seated in their wheelchairs. The third aim is to identify the impact of the mechanical parameters of wheelchairs as well as the physical and biomechanical variables of operators on propulsion efforts during over-ground maneuvers. Mechanical parameters include both inertial and frictional measurements. Operator factors include shoulder position, propulsion strength, and aerobic capacity. To evaluate the performance of daily maneuvering, we designed a repeatable maneuver consisting of several momentum changes. Because of the breadth of wheelchair configurations and variance in user physical capacity, it is necessary to define the effects of wheelchair configurations and user fitness on propulsion with a systematic approach. The study results demonstrated that shoulder position and weight distribution had a significant influence on the frictional energy loss and propulsion efforts. However, aerobic capacity and muscle strength had less influence on daily wheelchair maneuver. Clinicians can use our finding, which covers wheelchair designs and human fitness, to select equipment and prescribe exercise to wheelchair users. Manufacturers can also improve their wheelchair design by understanding the importance of shoulder position and weight distribution.