Objective: To study the longitudinal relation between physical capacity and wheelchair skill performance in subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI) during rehabilitation.
Design: Observational prospective cohort study. Measurements were taken 3 times during subjects' rehabilitation.
Setting: Eight rehabilitation centers in the Netherlands.
Participants: Ninety-seven subjects with SCI.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Parameters of physical capacity were upper-extremity muscle strength (manual muscle test [MMT] sum score), peak oxygen uptake, and peak power output (POpeak). The Wheelchair Circuit consists of 8 wheelchair skills and results in 3 test scores: ability, performance time, and physical strain.
Results: POpeak was related to all 3 scores of the Wheelchair Circuit, and the MMT sum score was related to the ability score and the performance time score. The results indicate that (1) subjects with higher values of POpeak and/or the MMT sum score had better scores on the Wheelchair Circuit than subjects with lower values and (2) when a subject increased his/her POpeak and/or MMT sum score, this was associated with better wheelchair skill scores.
Conclusions: There is a significant longitudinal relation between wheelchair skill performance and POpeak and MMT sum score during the rehabilitation of people with SCI. To optimize wheelchair skill performance, attention should be directed toward manual wheelchair exercise training and strength training of the upper body.