Improving wheelchair athletes’ performance
Research undertaken by members of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport has led to improved wheelchair configurations and enhanced training strategies for wheelchair athletes.
The Centre brings together expertise in rehabilitation sciences and high performance sport to investigate the complexities of wheelchair propulsion.
Experimental studies exploring the impact of different camber settings and wheel size on power outputs and physiological demand have established the optimum configurations for enhanced athletic performance.
The laboratory based investigations conducted in the Centre’s state-of-the-art facilities use a specialised treadmill which enable the researchers to investigate the biomechanical and physiological responses of sports wheelchair propulsion.
The research team has also explored the relevance of able-bodied exercise and training regimes for wheelchair athletes and established that certain key measures – such as ratings of perceived exertion – are appropriate for paraplegics when training for hand-cycling as well as wheelchair rugby.
- Informed preparation
Research into wheelchair configuration significantly influenced the preparation strategies of Paralympic athletes in the run up to the London 2012 Paralympic Games by better educating them about wheelchair configuration and chair choice.
- Improved wheelchair seating design
The need to individualise the wheelchair-user interface was identified and this led to a partnership between UK Sport, BMW and the University to improve the design of wheelchair seating. As a result, individualised seating was developed for eight players competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
- Enhanced talent identification
The Centre’s research has helped to inform talent identification for British Disability Cycling and British Para-triathlon. It has identified credible performance for Goalball and assisted the applied research that has been provided to the British Wheelchair Basketball Association and Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby.
- Better chair selection
The research has underpinned sections of a 20-page booklet developed by wheelchair manufacturers Bromakin and RGK and ParalympicsGB. This essential guide steers rehabilitation specialists and those involved with development athletes through the journey of wheelchair sports chair selection from beginner to elite performer.