Most essential wheeled mobility skills for daily life: an international survey among paralympic wheelchair athletes with spinal cord injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Apr;93(4):629-35. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.11.017. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


Objectives: To create a hierarchical list of the most essential wheeled mobility (WM) skills for everyday life of wheelchair users with a spinal cord injury (SCI), and to compare perceptions of WM gained during and after clinical rehabilitation.

Design: Cross-sectional study using survey questionnaires.

Setting: The Beijing Paralympic games, at the international zone of the Olympic village and in different sports venues.

Participants: A sample of men (N=49) and women (N=30) elite manual wheelchair user athletes with SCI (paraplegia, n=64; tetraplegia, n=15).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measure: A survey with 24 predefined skills was distributed during the Beijing Paralympic games. Respondents were asked to rate the essentiality of each skill (1, not essential; 5, extremely essential); to state where, when, and with whom they have learned to perform each skill; and to mark the level of WM, which they gained during and after clinical rehabilitation, on 3 different WM visual analog scales (scores 1-10).

Results: Rated as the most essential skill was transfer into and out of a car (mean ± SD, 4.7±0.7). Rated as the least essential skill was the 1-handed wheelie (mean ± SD, 1.9±1.3). Of the respondents, 57% have learned the most essential skills in clinical rehabilitation, while 40% claimed to have learned those skills afterward in a community setting. Three percent have never learned to perform the most essential skills. Of the very essential skills, 40% were self-taught. Mean score ± SD for the extent to which WM skills were gained in rehabilitation was 5.4±2.5.

Conclusions: The main survey outcome is a sorted list of WM skills according to their essentiality for daily life of hand-rim wheelchair users with SCI. It is recommended to incorporate the skills that were graded as very essential and extremely essential during inpatient rehabilitation and in postrehabilitation WM workshops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Wheelchairs*