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J Spinal Cord Med. 2010;33(1):33-42.

Hand rim wheelchair propulsion training using biomechanical real-time visual feedback based on motor learning theory principles.

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University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.



As considerable progress has been made in laboratory-based assessment of manual wheelchair propulsion biomechanics, the necessity to translate this knowledge into new clinical tools and treatment programs becomes imperative. The objective of this study was to describe the development of a manual wheelchair propulsion training program aimed to promote the development of an efficient propulsion technique among long-term manual wheelchair users.


Motor learning theory principles were applied to the design of biomechanical feedback-based learning software, which allows for random discontinuous real-time visual presentation of key spatiotemporal and kinetic parameters. This software was used to train a long-term wheelchair user on a dynamometer during 3 low-intensity wheelchair propulsion training sessions over a 3-week period. Biomechanical measures were recorded with a SmartWheel during over ground propulsion on a 50-m level tile surface at baseline and 3 months after baseline.


Training software was refined and administered to a participant who was able to improve his propulsion technique by increasing contact angle while simultaneously reducing stroke cadence, mean resultant force, peak and mean moment out of plane, and peak rate of rise of force applied to the pushrim after training.


The proposed propulsion training protocol may lead to favorable changes in manual wheelchair propulsion technique. These changes could limit or prevent upper limb injuries among manual wheelchair users. In addition, many of the motor learning theory-based techniques examined in this study could be applied to training individuals in various stages of rehabilitation to optimize propulsion early on.

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