Objectives: To study changes in wheelchair skills in subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI) during rehabilitation; to determine whether changes in wheelchair skill performance are related to the subject, lesion characteristics, secondary complications, and upper extremity pain; and to investigate if wheelchair skill performance at discharge can be predicted from these features.
Design: Longitudinal. Subjects performed the Wheelchair Circuit 3 times during rehabilitation: at admission (t1), 3 months later (t2), and at discharge (t3).
Setting: Eight rehabilitation centers in the Netherlands.
Participants: One hundred twenty-one subjects with SCI.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: The Wheelchair Circuit consists of 8 wheelchair skills and results in 3 test scores: ability, performance time, and physical strain.
Results: All the scores of the Wheelchair Circuit improved significantly between t1 and t2, and between t2 and t3. The scores were related to age and lesion level, whereas changes in scores were related to age, sex, lesion level, and secondary complications. The variables age, body mass index, sex, lesion level, motor completeness, and secondary complications contributed significantly to the prediction of the scores at t3.
Conclusions: Wheelchair skill performance improved during rehabilitation. Personal and lesion characteristics are most important for improving wheelchair skill performance and predicting wheelchair skill performance.