Effect of Weight On Wheelchair Propulsion Over Various Surfaces

RESNA 28th Annual Conference - Atlanta, Georgia

Jennifer L. Mercer BSE, Michael Boninger MD, Alicia Koontz PhD,
Jon Pearlman MS, David Boninger PhD, Rory Cooper PhD

Human Engineering Research Laboratories,
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
Departments of Bioengineering and Rehabilitation Science and Technology,
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15206


Weight is known to increase rolling resistance however its effect on propulsion forces over different surfaces is not known. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between total weight (body weight + wheelchair weight) and propulsion forces. Subjects propelled an instrumented wheelchair while pushrim forces and moments were recorded. Overweight individuals used increased tangential force to propel their wheelchair. However, increased weight did not always relate to increased forces in other directions. This study demonstrates the complexity of functional wheelchair propulsion, and suggests that increased weight may not be the only risk factor for increased propulsion forces (which are linked to secondary injuries). Therefore, evaluating propulsion forces is important for selecting a mobility device.

Keywords: wheelchairs; body weight; wheelchair weight; functional propulsion; forces

Jennifer L. Mercer
7180 Highland Drive
Building 4, East Wing, 151R-1
Pittsburgh, PA 15206.
Phone: (412) 365-4850
email: jlmst147@pitt.edu