New wheel design aids rehabilitation of wheelchair users
28 Feb 2011
UK engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash, in partnership with
University College London (UCL) and the Royal National Orthopaedic
Hospital Trust (RNOH), has developed a prototype wheelchair that could
prevent users from suffering shoulder injuries.
Wheelchair users are committed to using their arms for mobility,
so there is a lot of upper-limb activity which causes an increased
risk of long-term injury through physical wear.
The aim of the project is to carry out research that will inform
future wheelchair designs to protect users from severe accelerated
degenerative conditions, such as rotator cuff pathology, which can
be caused by such movements.
The wheelchair prototype is based on a previous design called the
Powerwheel, which was developed by Frazer-Nash for UK Sport as a
training device to improve the performance of Paralympic athletes.
Frazer-Nash is working with the RNOH, led by Dr Simon Grange, to
understand the needs of NHS wheelchair users and adapt the
Powerwheel’s design principles. Innovations such as integrating
spoked rather than carbon fibre racing wheels means that the
prototype can be used to benefit the rehabilitation and training
needs of NHS patients, minimising secondary injuries. Mr Peter
Smitham of UCL will supervise the clinical study at RNOH in
collaboration with Frazer-Nash.
The new wheel and a wheelchair fitted with the
The new wheel design, which is currently undergoing trials at
UCL’s PAMELA centre, is fully instrumented and provides real-time
feedback to the researcher on indicators such as the user’s push
force. Frazer-Nash and UCL are collaborating on this research
project to investigate the correlation between muscle activity in
the shoulder with the push profile exerted by the wheelchair user.
It is hoped that this will provide information on the levels of
force and specific manoeuvres that could lead to potential damage to
Alexandra Knight, Frazer-Nash Engineering Consultant, commented:
“We are delighted to be supporting the NHS on such an important
piece of research, and bring our strong track record in designing
innovative medical products to the project. As well as helping focus
an individual’s rehabilitation regime, the prototype has the
potential to inform the future design of wheelchairs that could
ultimately enhance the quality of life for thousands of users.”
The project is funded by a grant from the National Institute for
Health Research (NIHR) which was awarded to the RNOH.