Public Release: 

Exercise and recreation for people with mobility impairments

Veterans Affairs Research Communications

The current issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development (JRRD) includes eight manuscripts that focus on evaluating and identifying safe exercise programs for people with mobility impairments, benefits of exercise programs for special populations, and other related issues. A supplement is also available with this issue that details the history of rehabilitation engineering from the perspective of its American pioneers. Below are abstracts of studies featured in Volume 39, Issue 6 of the journal. Full-text manuscripts are available, free of charge, on-line at

Vacuum-assisted prosthetic sockets maintain fit during exercise
Determines how a vacuum-assisted socket maintains fit during exercise. Sensors were attached to nine study participants with unilateral or transtibial limb amputations, which measured compressive and suction pressures on the residual limbs as they walked. Vacuum-assisted sockets drove less fluid out of the limb during stance (less compression) and drew more fluid in during swing (greater suction). Paper lends insight as to why the vacuum-assisted socket prevents the daily limb volume loss that can cause improper fit.

Walking and standing top priorities of people with spinal cord injury
Explores the viewpoint of persons with spinal cord injury regarding mobility and assistive devices. Ninety-four individuals with paraplegia were asked to prioritize their desire to stand, walk, climb stairs, or transfer. Respondents were also asked to identify the acceptable qualities of activities and to assess their willingness to experience risks to attain them. Top priorities were walking, then standing. The acceptable quality of new mobility activities did not have to be the same pre-injury. Those with more to gain were more willing to take risks to walk and stand.

Electrodes safe to restore motor function after paralysis
Evaluates the reliability and safety of surgically implanted electrodes in the upper limb. Data on 858 electrodes implanted in the upper limbs of 62 volunteers participating in research studies between 1978 and 1998 were reviewed. The frequency of electrode fracture and occurrences of infection and inflammation associated with the electrodes was assessed. There is a 78% survival rate for electrodes in the body less than 6 months. Sixteen percent of volunteers experienced 23 occurrences of infection or inflammation. Electrodes provide a safe and minimally invasive technique for restoring motor function after paralysis of the central nervous system.

Slower propulsion speed reduces shoulder strain in adult users of wheelchairs
Examines daily wheelchair propulsion activity associated with the development of repetitive strain injuries at the shoulder. The wheelchairs of 27 adults with paraplegia were instrumented with wheels that measured applied hand force and torque. Their arms were prepared with markers for tracking arm movement. Participants propelled on a roller system at two constant speeds while data were collected. The shoulders moved through a greater range of motion, and loads were calculated that were nearly two times greater at the fast speed compared to the slow speed. Slow propulsion speeds minimize shoulder strain.

Free throw success for players in wheelchair basketball
Identifies factors associated with successful free throw shooting in wheelchair basketball and examines the relationship between shooting style and player classification. Free throws were recorded during a men's wheelchair basketball competition with the use of three-dimensional video data collection. Joint angular motions of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist were calculated, as were parameters of ball release. Technique for successful free throw shooting in wheelchair basketball is detailed.

GAMEWheels system provides safe, motivating workout for users of wheelchairs
Investigates whether the GAMEWheels system is a safe exercise program for individuals who use wheelchairs. GAMEWheels is an interface between a roller system and a computer that enables the user to play a game while exercising. Ten manual wheelchair users exercised on the GAMEWheels system with and without play of a video game. During each trial, information on arm force propulsion, oxygen consumption, and heart rate was collected. Game play during exercise significantly increased heart rate and oxygen consumption, compared to exercise without play. GAMEWheels system provides a safe, motivating workout for adults with spinal injury.

Speed of muscle recovery after stroke improves gait
Examines the relationship between walking speed after stroke and strength. Eighty-three adults poststroke, ages 50 to 90, participated in the study. Walking speed was measured, and knee strength was tested for the affected and less-affected limbs. Data suggests that after stroke, the rate of knee strength development may be more important than the maximum knee strength for walking speed.

Published with issue 39 volume 6 of JRRD is a supplement titled "Pioneers in Rehabilitative Engineering: Recollections and Perspectives," a compendium of presentations from the 2000 Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America conference. Michael J. Rosen, PhD, director of Rehabilitation Engineering Service, National Rehabilitation Hospital, and guest editor of "Pioneers" describes it as a historical account of rehabilitative engineering. "Pioneers" chronicles the advent of rehabilitation engineering, from key figures and political forces within the rehabilitation movement to early communication aids through the prism of such notables as Dudley S. Childress, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation, Northwestern University and Robert W. Mann, ScD, biomedical engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development is the only peer-reviewed, scientifically indexed publication covering all rehabilitation research disciplines: neurology, orthopedics, engineering, audiology, ophthalmology and optometry, outcomes, restorative, prosthetics, geriatrics, psychiatrics, and community reintegration. Formerly the Bulletin of Prosthetics Research, the Journal debuted in 1983 to include cross-disciplinary findings in rehabilitation. The Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, accepts original research papers, review articles, as well as clinical and technical commentary from U.S. and international researchers who investigate disability rehabilitation.

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