A motor learning approach to training wheelchair propulsion biomechanics for new manual wheelchair users: A pilot study

Kerri A. Morgan, Susan M. Tucker, Joseph W. Klaesner, Jack R. Engsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Context/Objective: Developing an evidence-based approach to teaching wheelchair skills and proper propulsion for everyday wheelchair users with a spinal cord injury (SCI) is important to their rehabilitation. The purpose of this project was to pilot test manual wheelchair training based on motor learning and repetition-based approaches for new manual wheelchair users with an SCI. Design: A repeated measures within-subject design was used with participants acting as their own controls. Methods: Six persons with an SCI requiring the use of a manual wheelchair participated in wheelchair training. The training included nine 90-minute sessions. The primary focus was on wheelchair propulsion biomechanics with a secondary focus on wheelchair skills. Outcome Measures: During Pretest 1, Pretest 2, and Posttest, wheelchair propulsion biomechanics were measured using the Wheelchair Propulsion Test and a Video Motion Capture system. During Pretest 2 and Posttest, propulsion forces using the WheelMill System and wheelchair skills using the Wheelchair Skills Test were measured. Results: Significant changes in area of the push loop, hand-to-axle relationship, and slope of push forces were found. Changes in propulsion patterns were identified post-training. No significant differences were found in peak and average push forces and wheelchair skills pre- and post-training. Conclusions: This project identified trends in change related to a repetition-based motor learning approach for propelling a manual wheelchair. The changes found were related to the propulsion patterns used by participants. Despite some challenges associated with implementing interventions for new manual wheelchair users, such as recruitment, the results of this study show that repetition-based training can improve biomechanics and propulsion patterns for new manual wheelchair users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-315
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2017


  • Manual wheelchair
  • Propulsion
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Training


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