Archive for the ‘wheelchairs’ Category

Manual Wheelchairs vs Electric Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are a popular mobility aid that greatly improves the lives of millions of people all over the world. The manual wheelchair has been around for thousands of years, while the electric wheelchair is relatively new, with the first electric wheelchair being developed in the early 1950′s. Choosing between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair is an important decision that should be based upon the needs and requirements of its user.

Consider the Physical Capabilities of the User

One of the most important considerations when choosing between a manual or electric wheelchair is the physical abilities of the wheelchair user. Using a manual wheelchair requires a lot of upper body strength and can be very tiring even for someone who is in perfect health. In addition to having fairly good physical fitness, it is also necessary to use both arms to push a manual wheelchair.

An electric wheelchair, on the other hand, can be controlled by only using a single finger and there are also a number of other alternate controls as well. Alternate wheelchair controls include head controlled wheelchairs and breath controlled wheelchairs. This allows even someone with greatly reduced physical capabilities to use a wheelchair.

Consider Where the Wheelchair Will Be Used

In addition to considering the condition of the wheelchair user, it is also necessary to consider where the wheelchair will be used and how far it will be driven everyday. If the wheelchair is primarily going to be used around the home, then a manual wheelchair might be a good choice, because even though it requires a good deal of physical effort, moving between rooms does not present a very large traveling distance.

If, on the other hand, you intend to use the wheelchair away from home across a larger distance, an electric wheelchair might be a better choice. As an example, traveling across a college campus would be much more strenuous than traveling between rooms in a house. The per charge range of an electric wheelchair varies, but most can travel between 10 and 20 miles without needing to be recharged.

In addition to considering how far one will be traveling in the wheelchair, it is also important to consider what type of terrain will be traveled over. It takes much more effort to move up and down hills than it does to move across straight ground in a manual wheelchair. Some electric wheelchairs are also much better choices for off road use, although it is also possible to buy off road wheels for manual wheelchairs.

Consider the Cost of the Wheelchair

Finally, it is also important to consider the wheelchair users budget, when deciding between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair. There are of course exceptions to the rule on both sides, but typically a manual wheelchair costs significantly less than an electric wheelchair. Usually a quality electric wheelchair costs between $3,500 and $7,000, while a manual wheelchair costs between $300 and $1,500.

When considering cost, it is important to take into account insurance programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, which will often help to offset the cost of a wheelchair. For example, in the case of Medicare, typically 80% of the cost of the wheelchair is covered, so this can greatly offset the expense of an electric wheelchair.

Selecting the Right Wheelchair

heavydutywheelchairThere are a number of decisions that go into prescribing a manual wheelchair and this decision should not be made lightly. This is because a wheelchair will be used daily and an improper fit could result in joint deformities, bruising, poor posture, circulation problems, and even pain. However, these problems can be avoided by ensuring that the wheelchair fits the user.

Size of the User

One of the most important considerations is the age of the wheelchair user, their size, and their weight. Wheelchairs come in a variety of sizes and so, it is seldom a problem finding one to fit an individual.

However, it is imperative that the seat is wide enough to accommodate their frame, the armrests do not rub their arms or cause discomfort, the backrest is not too high or too low, and the wheelchair can support the weight of the occupant. The height of the occupant is also important, so the wheelchair is not raised too high or low off of the ground.

Health and Condition of the User

The physical health and type of disability the new wheelchair user has is also a very important part of deciding what type of wheelchair will be the best choice. Since manual wheelchairs require good deal of upper body strength to use, they will not be the best choice for some, necessitating an electric power chair. Other considerations are the users ability to support their neck, how much flexibility they have in their legs, and circulation concerns, which could require the user to keep their feet elevated or have a reclining back.

Needs of the User

While the physical condition and attributes of the wheelchair user are essential, it is also imperative that the wheelchair can do what the user needs it to, so the needs and preferences of the wheelchair user should always be considered. For example, it should be determined if the user will be using the wheelchair only at home, at work, primarily outdoors, or a combination of all three. Other considerations include whether someone else will be pushing the wheelchair, how easy the wheelchair is to transport, and how the individual will transfer into and out of the chair.

Cost of the Wheelchair

Typically, the final consideration before actually ordering the wheelchair is the overall cost and purchasing power of the user. The order should be fine tuned to remove any unneeded features, which can add to the cost. The option to lease, buy, or rent should also be considered, as well as insurance or Medicare costs.

Ensuring that the wheelchair fits the specific needs and requirements of its user is imperative, not only for safety and health concerns, but also because the acceptance of a wheelchair by its user can affect their mental health.

Challenges Faced by New Wheelchair Users

wheelchair1Today, there are a number of different types of wheelchairs available. There are literally hundreds of different features and designs that are available to help fit the needs of wheelchair users. For the new wheelchair user, choosing the right wheelchair can often be a very difficult and confusing task.

Usually when an individual gets their first wheelchair, they do not know a lot about how wheelchairs work and what features will fit their needs. Often, a doctor will prescribe a wheelchair as part of their treatment and then take measurements of the individual to determine what type of wheelchair to order. There are actually a number of problems that can arise from this process, but they typically are caused by the patients own lack of knowledge of wheelchairs and the fact that the doctor is not a wheelchair user.

Since many doctors have never actually used a wheelchair for an extended period of time, through no fault of their own, they might not be the best resource for fitting an individual to a wheelchair. The patient, who is also inexperienced in wheelchairs, turns to the doctor as an expert on wheelchairs, but this is not going to always be the case.

Instead, the doctors experience with wheelchairs is often limited to a few days of training during college, so they measure the patient and plug the numbers into a worksheet to determine the proper dimensions. As a result, the wheelchair prescribed might not fit the best needs of the patient.

This is, of course, not to say that all doctors are poorly, have an ill intentions, or are not a good source of information. However, it is important to understand that since the doctor or specialists has probably never used a wheelchair for an extended period of time, they are not always as knowledgeable about the subject as a person might think.

To help deal with these challenges, there are a number of things the wheelchair user can do. First and foremost, it is a good idea to do some research about wheelchairs. This can involve reading articles about wheelchairs, but it is highly recommended to also talk with someone else who uses a wheelchair, because they offer a wealth of information.

Another great source of information is actually wheelchair salesman. They quite often know a great deal about wheelchairs and can be a great resource. However, since they are a salesman, it is imperative to remember they want to sell you a wheelchair and so, might not provide you a completely objective view. Instead, they will likely only mention products they offer, so it is very important to take what they say with a grain of salt.

One of the major parts of determining what type of wheelchair is best, will revolve around where the wheelchair will be used and the physical abilities of the rider. Since manual wheelchairs can be very strenuous, someone with very limited mobility might not be able to successfully use it, the physical abilities of the wheelchair user will be one of the most important considerations.

There are also a number of features and adjustments that can be made to the wheelchair to make it more comfortable and usable. For instance, some manual wheelchairs do not have armrests, which can make it more maneuverable, less strenuous on the arms, and easier to move under a table. Others have lowered backs, which make turning around in the wheelchair easier, or are designed to move much faster than traditional wheelchairs. This can be one area where an existing wheelchair user can offer excellent insight, but remember that some of these factors will come down to personal preference.

Understanding the options available and doing a good bit of research, can make finding the right wheelchair much easier.

For the wheelchair user, being involved in the wheelchair selection is imperative and one of the most important things they can do, because when a wheelchair is prescribed strictly by the books and without input from the patient, it will not always fully meet their needs.

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchairs have been used pretty much since the beginning of time, but until the 1900′s, they really didn’t resemble the wheelchairs of today. By the 1930′s, there were several steel tubed wheelchairs available that closely resemble the type of chair you see today. It was also around this time that wheelchairs sports first became popular.

The late 1930′s until the mid 1940′s, were a very violent time. Many millions of people lost their lives during World War II, but there were also a lot of medical advances, such as the use of penicillin to fight infection. Due to these advances, there was an increased number of soldiers who survived serious injuries, but were left disabled. It was this influx of disabled veterans that would lead to the development of wheelchair sports.

One of the first wheelchair sports to be played was wheelchair basketball. The first recorded game between veterans took place in 1946, but it is usually attributed, at least in part, to a German neurologist named Ludwig Guttmann. Guttmann fled Germany during the beginning of the Second World War. After the war, he founded the National Spinal Injuries Centre, which was located near London in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He firmly believed that sports were an integral part of rehabilitation and would go on to found the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, which were the predecessor to the Paralympics.

After that first game of wheelchair basketball in 1946, the popularity would quickly spread among veterans and others who used wheelchairs. It became a part of the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games in 1956 and the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation was founded in 1973. Today it is played by thousands in countries all over the World.

The Basics

Wheelchair basketball is played on a regulation basketball court and the rules are based off of the official NCAA rules, with some changes to address the needs of those in wheelchairs.

Generally in order to play, the individual must be affected by some sort of leg disability or paralysis that affects the lower part of their body, but there are some teams that have able bodied players on them. To achieve a balance, each player is ranked according to their abilities. The players are classified by their disability, for instance a player with complete motor loss would be classified as a Class I player. There is a set amount of points attached to each classification and the total point value of a teams active players can not be greater than 12. This is designed to create a team balance.

The wheelchair used to play wheelchair basketball must also meet several requirements. The height of the seat should not be greater than 21” and the foot rest should not be higher than 5”. A seat cushion is permitted for each player, but it can not exceed 2” to 4” depending on the players classification. The wheelchairs are usually outfitted with anti-tip bars and other protective tools

General contact rules apply, such as charging and blocking, and the wheelchair is considered part of the players body. Players in possession of the ball may push their wheels to advance, but they can not push more than twice without either dribbling or passing the ball. Pushing more than twice is considered traveling.

A player will loose possession of the ball if they make any contact with the floor. This includes if the wheelchair tips back far enough that the anti-tip wheels make contact with the floor. Generally if a player falls from their chair, the referees will not stop the game unless there is a danger to the player.

What is Wheelchair Rugby

Traditional rugby is often considered to be pretty rough, but it doesn’t really hold a candle to wheelchair rugby, which is, with good reason, often referred to as Murderball. This sport first became popular in Canada during the later part of the nineteen-seventies and today is played worldwide.

Wheelchair rugby is also sometimes called quad rugby, because one of the requirements is that all of the players must be quadriplegic. This means they must have a disability that affects each of their four extremities. It is played by both men and women a hardwood court the size of a regulation basketball court. Not only is physical contact allowed between players, it is an important part of the game.

The rules of this sport are based in part off of wheelchair basketball and ice hockey. The court is designed very similar to that of a soccer field. There is a center line and circle and at either end of the court there is a key. In order to score, a player must bring the ball through the key and across the goal line. Up to three defensive players are allowed in the key at any time and offensive players can only remain in the opposite teams key for up to ten seconds.

Up to eight players can be on the court at any time, with four on each team. When a player gains possession of the ball, they must pass it or dribble it within ten seconds. Other players are allowed to make physical contact with each others wheelchairs and it can get pretty aggressive, but unsafe contact, such as hitting a player from behind, is not allowed. Players are also not allowed to make physical contact with each others bodies.

While it is pretty rough, players can still receive infractions for fouls. Generally players who commit a foul, like striking an opponent from behind or illegally using their hands, is given a one minute penalty or have to give up possession of the ball. Occasionally the opposing team will be awarded a point in place of a penalty.

Much like wheelchair basketball, players of wheelchair rugby are classified based off of the level of their disability. They are ranked from .5 to 3.5 and at no point can the total number of points of active players on the court exceed eight.

Since wheelchair rugby can get very rough, it is necessary for players to use a specially reinforced wheelchair. A lot of players choose to have their chair custom made, but there are a list of specifications they must meet. They must have a front bumper, to improve striking, but also to protect the player. The bumper must extend out in front of the wheels. This extension is called a wing and makes it more difficult for the wheelchair to be stopped.

Wheelchair rugby is very popular today and after the most recent Paralympics, it has become even more so. Currently more than twenty countries actively participate in wheelchair rugby on a professional level.

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