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Assessment of Wheelchair Drag Resistance Using a Coasting Deceleration Technique

Hoffman, Martin D. MD; Millet, Guillaume Y. PhD; Hoch, Anne Z. DO; Candau, Robin B. PhD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: November 2003 - Volume 82 - Issue 11 - p 880-889
doi: 10.1097/01.PHM.0000091980.91666.58
CME Article 2003 Series Number 11: Wheelchairs
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Hoffman MD, Millet GY, Hoch AZ, Candau RB: Assessment of wheelchair drag resistance using a coasting deceleration technique. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2003;82:880–889.

Objective To apply a recently developed coasting deceleration method to measure rolling and aerodynamic resistances opposing wheelchair propulsion on a variety of different wheelchairs and wheel combinations and on two different ground surfaces.

Design For each condition, 20–25 trials were performed across a speed range of approximately 70–300 m/min. The least-squares method was then used to arrive at values for the coefficient of rolling resistance (CR) and effective frontal area of the wheelchair and occupant.

Results Wheelchair rolling resistance was found to be velocity dependent under some circumstances. CR values on linoleum differed among folding lightweight wheelchairs and when compared with a rigid ultralight and racing wheelchair. Changing rear wheels and tires on one wheelchair resulted in a 14% difference in CR. Carpet increased CR values by an average of 0.0118 over the values determined on linoleum. As expected, effective frontal area of the wheelchair and occupant values were lower for the racer than for the folding lightweight wheelchair.

Conclusions Wheelchair rolling resistance is not always independent of velocity, and CR on linoleum can vary among wheelchairs by as much as seven-fold, and carpet can more than double CR.

From the Sports Performance and Technology Laboratory and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, The Medical College of Wisconsin and VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (MDH); the Group Analyse du Mouvement, UFR STAPS, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France (GYM); the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (AZH); and the Laboratoire Sport Performance et Santé, Faculté des Sciences du Sport, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, France (RBC).

Supported, in part, by the Veterans Affairs Medical Research Service.

Presented at the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Annual Meeting, November 7, 1998, Seattle, Washington.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be directed to Martin D. Hoffman, MD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, VA Northern California Health Care System, Sacramento VA Medical Center, 10535 Hospital Way, Mather, CA 95655-1200.

Objectives: On completion of this article, the reader should be able to (1) list the factors affecting wheelchair rolling resistance, (2) contrast the metabolic demands for wheelchair propulsion on carpet vs. linoleum, and (3) discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the coasting deceleration technique for measuring wheelchair drag resistance.

Level: Advanced.

Accreditation: The Association of Academic Physiatrists is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to sponsor continuing medical education for physicians.

The Association of Academic Physiatrists designates this continuing medical education activity for a maximum of 1.5 credit hours in Category 1 of Physician’s Recognition Award of the American Medical Association. Each physician should claim only those hours of credit that he or she actually spent in the education activity.

Disclosure: Disclosure statements have been obtained regarding the authors’ relationships with financial supporters of this activity. There is no apparent conflict of interests related to the context of participation of the authors of this article.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.