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Identifying and Measuring Factors that Impact Manual Wheelchair Rolling Resistance

Ott, Joseph (2020) Identifying and Measuring Factors that Impact Manual Wheelchair Rolling Resistance. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Rolling resistance is a drag force that opposes the propulsion force, and it is linked to repetitive strain injuries in the upper extremities for manual wheelchair users. The higher the rolling resistance is, the more at risk the user is and there is relatively little actionable information in this area. To identify and measure the influential factors of manual wheelchair rolling resistance, a scoping literature review was conducted, a novel drum-based testing machine was developed, and a community-based study was conducted to determine the prevalence of misalignment in rear-wheels. The literature review classified the previous test methods into seven categories and found eight factors measured in those test methods. With variation in methods, repeatability, factors, and reporting, clinically meaningful information was difficult to discern. Therefore, a drum-based approach was developed to test wheels and casters independently through all eight factors at a component-level; demonstrating that toe, tire pressure, surfaces, and tire type can significantly increase rolling resistance. Pneumatic tires, even underinflated, have lower rolling resistance than airless inserts. Casters with an eight-inch diameter had higher rolling resistance than smaller four- or five-inch casters. The effects of combined factors on rolling resistance can be estimated as the addition of individual factors. Further characterization of wheels of casters can be done to guide product selection. The community-based study revealed that manual wheelchair users are lacking proper alignment on their devices and it comes at a cost to propulsion. Devices are harder to propel, and the user is at greater risk for upper extremity pain and injuries through prolonged propulsion. In order to mitigate those effects, proper design, manufacturing, setup, and maintenance of devices are critical for the health of the end-users. Clinicians, manufacturers, and suppliers need to be aware of the effect of setup choices on the mechanical impact to the wheelchairs and ultimately the user. Lastly, the research needs to be communicated and translated effectively so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions about their devices in the effort of upper extremity preservation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPearlman,
Committee MemberSchmeler,
Committee MemberKoontz,
Committee MemberDiGiovine,
Committee MemberSullivan,
Date: 31 July 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 May 2020
Approval Date: 31 July 2020
Submission Date: 6 May 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 329
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences > Rehabilitation Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Rolling Resistance, Friction, Wheelchairs
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2020 20:23
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2022 05:15


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