The Effect of Respiration on Wheelchair Stability

Olivier Heimrath, BSc (Kin), R. Lee Kirby, MD, Kim Parker, MASc, Donald A. MacLeod, MSc.


The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that the static rear stability of an occupied wheelchair is greater during full inspiration than full expiration. We studied 10 able-bodied participants, measuring stability on a test platform according to RESNA/ANSI and ISO standards. A Wilcoxon matched pairs t-test revealed a small but significant difference between full inspiration (16.5) and full expiration (16.1) (p=0.0020). Also, when the participants exhaled at the maximum degree of platform tilt needed to maintain stability during full inspiration (the Exhalation Threshold Test [ETT]), most (19 of 20 trials) tipped over backwards. Respiration appears to have a slight, but definite, effect on the rear stability of occupied wheelchairs. This has implications for both stability testing and for the training of wheelchair skills affected by stability (e.g. wheelie skills).


rehabilitation, wheelchair, wheelie, locomotor-respiratory coupling, stability


Olivier Heimrath, c/o Dr. R. Lee Kirby,
Dalhousie University, Room 206,
Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre
1341 Summer Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canada B3H 4K4


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