Optimised Clothing for Wheelchair Athletes

Phto: Handbiker in action 

Within the framework of a research project, scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim are aiming to optimise functionality and comfort of sportswear for wheelchair users.

Whereas sports equipment such as hand bikes are individually built and totally customised to the specific requirements of the athletes and their physical impairment, as far as their clothing is concerned they frequently only have access to the ready-made clothes for able-bodied athletes. Within the framework of the research project, scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim are aiming to optimise functionality and comfort of sportswear for wheelchair users.

Project leader Anke Klepser ascertained the physical dimensions of male wheelchair basket ball players and hand bikers. The test persons were measured once in a stationary 3D bodyscanner in their usual wheelchair and then also with a handscanner in their respective sports wheelchair.

An important objective of the project is to use the measurement data to optimise the cuts and seam lines of sportswear. But also the physiological comfort, or in other words, the ability of the textiles to absorb body sweat and divert it away from the body as well as the heat insulation of the materials should also be adapted to the specific requirements of the athletes. Skin irritations caused by mechanical actions such as intensive friction of the arms on the upper body should be minimised in the demonstration/functional samples that are to be developed.

In contrast to this, depending on the type and degree of the spinal cord injury, for the majority of wheelchair athletes, the paralysis of the extremities is also linked to a restricted functionality of the body's own temperature control. For example, quadriplegics whose legs and arms are affected to a greater or lesser extent by the paralysis, do not sweat or only sweat to a limited extent and run the risk, especially in the case of very high external temperatures and/or high physical exertion, of suffering a circulatory collapse due to the body overheating. Water applied externally to the clothing can help in such cases by ensuring the necessary cooling through evaporation.

Anke Klepser and her team also had to consider other specific aspects in their research work. "The clothing requirements for wheelchair athletes are extremely variable and complex. We hope that our data and information will form the basis for many optimised products which will make life easier for the athletes and will support them appropriately in their outstanding achievements. It is expected that the results of the project will be available for interested manufacturers from early 2014.”

REHACARE.de; Source: Hohenstein Institute

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