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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 634768, 11 pages
Research Article

Evaluation of Pediatric Manual Wheelchair Mobility Using Advanced Biomechanical Methods

1Department of Occupational Science & Technology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA
2Rehabilitation Research Design and Disability (R2D2) Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA
3Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Engineering Center (OREC), Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53233, USA
4Shriners Hospitals for Children—Chicago, Chicago, IL 60707, USA
5Physical Therapy Program, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA

Received 17 March 2014; Revised 3 June 2014; Accepted 21 July 2014

Academic Editor: Alicia Koontz

Copyright © 2015 Brooke A. Slavens et al. 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.


There is minimal research of upper extremity joint dynamics during pediatric wheelchair mobility despite the large number of children using manual wheelchairs. Special concern arises with the pediatric population, particularly in regard to the longer duration of wheelchair use, joint integrity, participation and community integration, and transitional care into adulthood. This study seeks to provide evaluation methods for characterizing the biomechanics of wheelchair use by children with spinal cord injury (SCI). Twelve subjects with SCI underwent motion analysis while they propelled their wheelchair at a self-selected speed and propulsion pattern. Upper extremity joint kinematics, forces, and moments were computed using inverse dynamics methods with our custom model. The glenohumeral joint displayed the largest average range of motion (ROM) at 47.1° in the sagittal plane and the largest average superiorly and anteriorly directed joint forces of 6.1% BW and 6.5% BW, respectively. The largest joint moments were 1.4% body weight times height (BW × H) of elbow flexion and 1.2% BW × H of glenohumeral joint extension. Pediatric manual wheelchair users demonstrating these high joint demands may be at risk for pain and upper limb injuries. These evaluation methods may be a useful tool for clinicians and therapists for pediatric wheelchair prescription and training.