Wheelchair propulsion demands during outdoor community ambulation

Wendy J. Hurd, Melissa M.B. Morrow, Kenton R. Kaufman, Kai Nan An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Quantify manual wheelchair propulsion effort during outdoor community ambulation. Design: Case series. Subjects: Thirteen individuals (12 with SCI, 1 with spina bifida) who were experienced manual wheelchair users and had no current upper extremity injury or pain complaints. Methods: Measurements were obtained from instrumented wheelchair rims during steady-state propulsion as subjects traversed outdoor concrete sidewalk terrain that included smooth level, aggregate level, and a ramp with a smooth surface. Propulsion effort was assessed using the average propulsion moment, average instantaneous power, and work for both upper extremities. Results: Propulsion effort, captured by the propulsion moment, work and power, varied across ground conditions (p < 0.001). Propulsion effort was greater as the rolling resistance increased (i.e., smooth versus aggregate surfaces) and as the inclination angle progressed from level to inclined surfaces. There were no side-to-side differences across ground conditions for the propulsion moment or work. Power generation was significantly greater on the dominant compared to the non-dominant extremity during the more challenging aggregate surface and ramp conditions. Conclusions: Propulsion effort varies with demands imposed by different ground conditions. Quantification of wheelchair propulsion demands provides rehabilitations specialists with objective information to guide treatment of patients adapting to manual wheelchair use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-947
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Mobility
  • Propulsion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Wheelchair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Neurology


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