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14-07-2011 | Article

New wheelchair slalom test reliable and accurate


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MedWire News: The timed manual wheelchair slalom test (MWST) is a reliable and accurate outcome measure that can be used to assess the performance of individuals with spinal cord injury who rely on a manually propelled wheelchair, research shows.

To date, there is no standardized test to assess wheelchair performance.

The test can "characterize change over time or the impact of various treatments on manual wheelchair maneuverability and propulsion capacity," Dany Gagnon (University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and colleagues report in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Individuals with a spinal cord injury who use a manually propelled wheelchair need to rapidly change directions when using the wheelchair in the real world.

Moving the wheelchair in different directions requires the use of asymmetric forces generated by the shoulders; however, the force generated by the shoulders is counteracted by the muscles in the trunk - muscles that can be impaired with a spinal cord injury.

Seating alignment and stability can be affected when the muscles of the trunk lack the force to counteract the forces generated at the shoulder when changing directions.

The timed MWST is conducted on a smooth, level concrete corridor, is 18 m in length, and set up with seven brightly colored cones aligned in a straight line. The cones are set 3 m, 2 m, and 1 m apart.

Fifteen individuals with spinal cord injury participated in the study, propelling their wheelchair through the slalom course.

The time required to complete the course, an average of three tests, was 16.8 s during visit one and 16.5 s during visit two.

Using a statistical model, the researchers report that the largest variance in completing the test was related to the participants, but the variance was negligible.

Dependability measures confirmed that the MWST was reliable and accurate and showed good testretest reliability.

The standard error of measurement was 3.5%. The minimum detectable change of the time needed to complete the MWST was 8.1%.

Gagnon and colleagues note the test can be performed quickly and easily, and is safe for participants.

In the clinical and research setting, it can be used to quantify changes in wheelchair propulsion performance and to refine therapies, especially when spinal cord injury patients undergo intensive rehabilitation, they say.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By MedWire Reporters