Friday, February 4, 2011

UK engineers work on wheelchair design that could prevent shoulder injuries

From The Engineer in the UK:

Frazer-Nash has developed a prototype wheelchair that could prevent wheelchair users suffering shoulder injuries.

The wheelchair prototype — developed in partnership with University College London (UCL) and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Trust (RNOH) — is based on the Powerwheel design, 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. In doing so, it is hoped that future wheelchair designs will protect users from severe accelerated degenerative conditions, such as rotator cuff pathology.

The new wheel design, which is currently undergoing trials at UCL’s Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratorycentre 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 correlation between muscle activity in the shoulder with the push profile exerted by a 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 the shoulder.

The project is funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health Research that was awarded to the RNOH.