Original research| Volume 101, ISSUE 1, P1-10, January 2020

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Effects of Motor Skill-Based Training on Wheelchair Propulsion Biomechanics in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Published:September 04, 2019DOI:



      To identify whether motor skill-based training improves wheeling biomechanics in older adults and whether transfer or retention occurs.


      Randomized controlled trial.


      Human mobility laboratory.


      Able-bodied older adults 50 years and older deemed ready to participate in physical activity (N=34).


      Participants were randomized to 1 of 3 groups: experimental group with 6 motor skill-based training sessions, active control group with dose-matched uninstructed practice, and the inactive control group (no training or practice).
      The experimental group's training sessions consisted of two 5-minute blocks of wheelchair propulsion training, separated by a 5-minute break, for a total of 60 minutes of wheeling. Breaks included education and discussion related to wheelchair propulsion. Training focused on increasing push angle, decreasing push frequency, decreasing negative braking forces, and using a circular wheeling pattern with smooth pushes.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Temporal spatial and kinetic variables (ie, push angle, push frequency, total and tangential forces, negative force) were evaluated during steady-state wheeling and biomechanical variables were assessed with the SmartWheel Clinical Protocol to identify transfer.


      The training group significantly increased push angle and decreased push frequency compared with the practice (P<.05) and control groups (P<.05), which were retained over time and transferred to overground wheeling on tile (P≤.05). The dose-matched practice group did not differ from the inactive control group for any variables (P>.05).


      Older adults improve select biomechanical variables following motor skill-based training, which are retained over time and transfer to overground wheeling. Participants in the active control group did not improve with uninstructed practice compared with the inactive control group.

      List of abbreviations:

      BMI (body mass index), GLMM (generalized linear mixed-effects model), MWU (manual wheelchair user), RCT (randomized controlled trial)


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