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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Jan;88(1):81-7.

Stroke pattern and handrim biomechanics for level and uphill wheelchair propulsion at self-selected speeds.

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  • 1MAX Mobility LLC, Nashville, TN; Beneficial Designs Inc, Nashville, TN, USA.



To investigate the natural stroke patterns of wheelchair users pushing on a level surface, to determine if users adapt their stroke patterns for pushing uphill, and to assess whether there are biomechanic advantages to one or more of the stroke patterns.


Case series.


Biomechanics laboratory.


Twenty-six manual wheelchair users with a spinal cord injury.


Subjects pushed their own wheelchairs at self-selected speeds on a research treadmill set to level, 3 degrees , and 6 degrees grades. Stroke patterns were measured using a motion capture system. Handrim biomechanics were measured using an instrumented wheel.


Stroke patterns were classified for both level and uphill propulsion according to 1 of 4 common classifications: arcing, semi-circular, single-looping (SLOP), and double-looping (DLOP). Biomechanic outcomes of speed, peak handrim force, cadence, and push angle were all compared across stroke classifications using an analysis of variance.


Only 3 of the 4 stroke patterns were observed. None of the subjects used the semi-circular pattern. For level propulsion, the stroke patterns were fairly balanced between arcing (42%), SLOP (31%), and DLOP (27%). Subjects tended to change their stroke pattern for pushing uphill, with 73% of the subjects choosing the arcing pattern by the 6 degrees grade. No statistically significant differences were found in handrim biomechanics or subject characteristics across stroke pattern groups.


Wheelchair users likely adapt their stroke pattern to accommodate their propulsion environment. Based on the large percentage of subjects who adopted the arcing pattern for pushing uphill, there may be benefits to the arcing pattern for pushing uphill. In light of this and other recent work, it is recommended that clinicians not instruct users to utilize a single stroke pattern in their everyday propulsion environments.

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