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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 609369, 12 pages
Research Article

Effect of Wheelchair Frame Material on Users’ Mechanical Work and Transmitted Vibration

1Laboratoire de Recherche en Imagerie et Orthopédie (LIO), Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Montréal, Canada
2Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Réadaptation de Montréal, Institut de Réadaptation Gingras-Lindsay, Montréal, Canada
3Département de Génie de la Production Automatisée, École de Technologie Supérieure, Montréal, Canada

Received 13 March 2014; Revised 4 June 2014; Accepted 27 June 2014; Published 3 September 2014

Academic Editor: Andrew H. Hansen

Copyright © 2014 Félix Chénier and Rachid Aissaoui. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Wheelchair propulsion exposes the user to a high risk of shoulder injury and to whole-body vibration that exceeds recommendations of ISO 2631-1:1997. Reducing the mechanical work required to travel a given distance (WN-WPM, weight-normalized work-per-meter) can help reduce the risk of shoulder injury, while reducing the vibration transmissibility (VT) of the wheelchair frame can reduce whole-body vibration. New materials such as titanium and carbon are used in today’s wheelchairs and are advertised to improve both parameters, but current knowledge on this matter is limited. In this study, WN-WPM and VT were measured simultaneously and compared between six folding wheelchairs (1 titanium, 1 carbon, and 4 aluminium). Ten able-bodied users propelled the six wheelchairs on three ground surfaces. Although no significant difference of WN-WPM was found between wheelchairs , significant differences of VT were found . The carbon wheelchair had the lowest VT. Contrarily to current belief, the titanium wheelchair VT was similar to aluminium wheelchairs. A negative correlation between VT and WN-WPM was found, which means that reducing VT may be at the expense of increasing WN-WPM. Based on our results, use of carbon in wheelchair construction seems promising to reduce VT without increasing WN-WPM.