Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 519–532 | Cite as

Construction and evaluation of a model for wheelchair propulsion in an individual with tetraplegia

  • Brooke OdleEmail author
  • Jeffrey Reinbolt
  • Gail Forrest
  • Trevor Dyson-Hudson
Original Article


Upper limb overuse injuries are common in manual wheelchair users with spinal cord injury. Patient-specific in silico models enhance experimental biomechanical analyses by estimating in vivo shoulder muscle and joint contact forces. Current models exclude deep shoulder muscles that have important roles in wheelchair propulsion. Freely accessible patient-specific models have not been generated for persons with tetraplegia, who have a greater risk for shoulder pain and injury. The objectives of this work were to (i) construct a freely accessible, in silico, musculoskeletal model capable of generating patient-specific dynamic simulations of wheelchair propulsion and (ii) establish proof-of-concept with data obtained from an individual with tetraplegia. Constructed with OpenSim, the model features muscles excluded in existing models. Shoulder muscle forces and activations were estimated via inverse dynamics. Mean absolute error of estimated muscle activations and fine-wire electromyography (EMG) recordings was computed. Mean muscle activation for five consecutive stroke cycles demonstrated good correlation (0.15–0.17) with fine-wire EMG. These findings, comparable to other studies, suggest that the model is capable of estimating shoulder muscle forces during wheelchair propulsion. The additional muscles may provide a greater understanding of shoulder muscle contribution to wheelchair propulsion. The model may ultimately serve as a powerful clinical tool.

Graphical abstract


Upper limb Biomechanics Musculoskeletal model Wheelchair propulsion Spinal cord injuries 



The authors thank Mr. Andrew Kwarciak and Dr. Mathew Yarossi for collecting and processing the experimental wheelchair propulsion and EMG data that were used in the simulations.


This study was funded by NJCSCR Grant No. 06-3054-SCR-E-0 and NSF/CUNY Grant No. 0450360.


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Copyright information

© International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringNew Jersey Institute of TechnologyNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Kessler FoundationWest OrangeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical EngineeringCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationRutgers New Jersey Medical SchoolNewarkUSA

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