Instrumented handrim wheelchair ergometer for exercise testing and training

Computer-controlled wheelchair roller ergometer for the systematic assessment of patients and athletes in their own wheelchair, ‘Esseda’.

Measurement of wheeled mobility and propulsion characteristics in the field is complicated due to its non-stationary nature and lack of standardisation. As such, most research is conducted in a laboratory environment. It is important to give an accurate simulation of propulsion in the lab so that findings can be generalised. In this project the final steps towards the development of this reliable and valid wheelchair simulator/ergometer are made.

According to The Netherlands Institute for Social Research, about 225,000-250,000 Dutch people are dependent on a wheelchair. Manual wheelchair propulsion is physically straining, which could lead to injury of the upper extremities or a considerable degree of inactivity. Optimal wheelchair design, appropriate user-wheelchair interfacing as well as optimal propulsion skills and abilities are required for each individual in rehabilitation, sports and daily life in order to prevent these health risks and allow participation, wellbeing and healthy aging. Valid and reliable measurements of manual wheelchair propulsion in dependence of wheelchair design, interface configuration and individual training status are necessary to provide protocolised insights in individual efficient propulsion technique and wheelchair design for rehabilitation and adapted sports practice.

The experience of the industrial partners in engineering and ergometry will be combined with knowledge within the Center for Human Movement Sciences of the University Medical Centre Groningen on wheelchair biomechanics, ergometry and ergonomics. The ergometer uses a computer controlled servomotor and sensor technology to simulate overground propulsion as well as measure and monitor individual wheeling performance. To achieve this, the ergometer uses an internal model of the wheelchair’s vehicle mechanics (‘Power balance’). When validated and implemented, this ergometer can be used to study wheelchair biomechanics under realistic conditions in individualised wheelchair settings and standardised protocols.

The result of this project will be a validated commercial wheelchair ergometer that can be used in research, clinical practice, and adapted sports, worldwide.

A wheelchair ergometer allows for the measurement of physiological, motor control and biomechanical variables during standardized propulsion in a controlled environment. The ergometer must operate and measure reliable, reproducible and valid at the individual user level. Performance in the lab, and the measurements thereof should accurately reflect performance in the field. The current ergometer uses computer controlled servomotors as well as sensor technology that allow for the simulation of different surfaces and slopes, as well as for the accurate measurement of performance indicators and propulsion technique. The project intends to provide the scientific basis to these product requirements through experimentation and testing.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
Time period
48 months