Advancing technology for performance

The outputs from the PHC’s wheelchair configuration research theme has significantly influenced the preparation strategies of the Paralympic athletes, by better educating them about wheelchair configuration, chair choice and training strategies.

Configuring a sports wheelchair is a vital yet complex decision for wheelchair athletes. In partnership with UK Sport’s Research and Innovation team and several key partners we helped to develop an innovative bespoke customised seat for members of the British Wheelchair Basketball team in 2012.

This seat delivered tangible performance benefits in our testing. Team members still have an interest in wheeled mobility and continue to work with the wheelchair sports of basketball, tennis and rugby.

Many people around the world rely on a wheelchair to maintain independence, health, wellbeing and participate in sports. Our research is helping to better understand the relationship between activities of daily living, sporting activities and shoulder health in wheelchair users.

The new seat has improved my game enormously. The stability ... the extra speed ... makes it easier to defend against the best attacking sides in the world to give us that unique advantage. I believe it is allowing me to play my best ever basketball.

Ade Orogbemi British Wheelchair Basketball player

One of our studies has found that despite athletic and nonathletic wheelchair users performing different amounts of physical activity, they adopt similar strategies to propel their daily living wheelchair. This finding means that clinicians and coaches may be able to use information from biomechanical studies of nonathletic wheelchair users during daily propulsion to inform their work with wheelchair athletes.

We are now involved in work that is exploring the application of inertial sensors for ambulatory monitoring of wheelchair athletes to help optimise match play training preparation and manage injuries with our
Dutch collaborators.

Professor Tolfrey understands the needs of the elite athlete with a disability and has specific expertise in the wheelchair athlete … a clear understanding and a unique ability to combine ‘basic’ research with the process of application in an applied environment.

Paul Davies Former BPA Head of Sport Science and Medicine (Paralympic Sport) and former British Wheelchair Basketball Performance Director