• By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Science Saturday: Patient-focused research to transform experience for manual wheelchair users

December 25, 2021
a middle aged white man getting out of truck into a wheelchair

A multidisciplinary team of Mayo Clinic researchers and others is looking at the ergonomics of people who use manual wheelchairs. They seek to identify metrics to quantify arm use associated with rotator cuff pathology and progressive degeneration, which will inform the development of personalized interventions.

In general, people lose functionality in their rotator cuffs — the shoulder muscles and tendons keeping bones in place — as they age. However, for people with a spinal cord injury who are dependent on their arms for both mobility and daily living activities, this natural progression is accelerated.

The researchers, led by Missy Morrow, Ph.D., section head of the Health Care Systems Engineering section in the Division of Health Care Delivery Research, are conducting a study comparing arm use in individuals with spinal cord injury who use a manual wheelchair, and able-bodied individuals. In their first publication: Inertial Measurement Unit-Derived Ergonomic Metrics for Assessing Arm Use in Manual Wheelchair Users With Spinal Cord Injury: A Preliminary Report, they describe how they used inertial measurement unit sensors worn by the study participants for two days to collect measurements and define risk and recovery metrics. Participants also had shoulder MRIs taken approximately 1 year apart, to evaluate the changes in rotator cuff tendon health over time.

Read the rest of the article on Advancing the Science.

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