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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Apr;93(4):629-35. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.11.017. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

Most essential wheeled mobility skills for daily life: an international survey among paralympic wheelchair athletes with spinal cord injury.

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  • 1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



To create a hierarchical list of the most essential wheeled mobility (WM) skills for everyday life of wheelchair users with a spinal cord injury (SCI), and to compare perceptions of WM gained during and after clinical rehabilitation.


Cross-sectional study using survey questionnaires.


The Beijing Paralympic games, at the international zone of the Olympic village and in different sports venues.


A sample of men (N=49) and women (N=30) elite manual wheelchair user athletes with SCI (paraplegia, n=64; tetraplegia, n=15).


Not applicable.


A survey with 24 predefined skills was distributed during the Beijing Paralympic games. Respondents were asked to rate the essentiality of each skill (1, not essential; 5, extremely essential); to state where, when, and with whom they have learned to perform each skill; and to mark the level of WM, which they gained during and after clinical rehabilitation, on 3 different WM visual analog scales (scores 1-10).


Rated as the most essential skill was transfer into and out of a car (mean ± SD, 4.7±0.7). Rated as the least essential skill was the 1-handed wheelie (mean ± SD, 1.9±1.3). Of the respondents, 57% have learned the most essential skills in clinical rehabilitation, while 40% claimed to have learned those skills afterward in a community setting. Three percent have never learned to perform the most essential skills. Of the very essential skills, 40% were self-taught. Mean score ± SD for the extent to which WM skills were gained in rehabilitation was 5.4±2.5.


The main survey outcome is a sorted list of WM skills according to their essentiality for daily life of hand-rim wheelchair users with SCI. It is recommended to incorporate the skills that were graded as very essential and extremely essential during inpatient rehabilitation and in postrehabilitation WM workshops.

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