Document Type


Date of Award

Summer 8-31-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering - (M.S.)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Trevor Dyson-Hudson

Second Advisor

Richard A. Foulds

Third Advisor

Gail Forrest

Fourth Advisor

Sergei Adamovich


The objective of this study was to determine how rear wheel tire type affects wheelchair propulsion mechanics. Four persons with paraplegia and four persons with tetraplegia propelled their own wheelchairs on a roller system at self-selected speed using five different pairs of tires. Upper limb and trunk kinematics, perceived exertion, stroke pattern and the temporal characteristics of propulsion were measured. When using pneumatic (air filled) tires, with lower rolling resistance, participants had lower push frequency (p < .05), higher self selected speed (p < .05), less perceived exertion, less shoulder internal rotation, and a longer push stroke than when using solid, high rolling resistance tires. As rolling resistance increased, participants experienced negative changes in propulsion characteristic that contradicted current clinical practice guidelines for upper limb preservation following spinal cord injury. In addition, kinematics with solid, high rolling resistance tires were similar to those described during uphill or over carpet propulsion. In order to avoid unnecessary strain on the upper limbs and unwanted changes in propulsion biomechanics, wheelchair users, clinicians, and researchers should consider the use of lower rolling resistance, pneumatic rear tires.