Jim Nikkel, SWET research associate with SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department, worked with Mike Frogley, high-performance director with WBC, to develop the template competition wheelchair. A useful training tool, the chair can be adjusted on 12 different parameters such as: seat height, camber (tilt), wheel-base length and wheel size, back height and angle, foot-plate position and height, and axle position.
Frogley says athletes can use the chair to test different adjustments, creating individualized measurements that optimize their pushing, passing, catching and dribbling skills.
“It only took about three hours of using the chair, in total, for each athlete to have objective data about the type of installation they should be using,” says Frogley. “In the past, finding that ideal fit would’ve taken about five years and a lot of money.”
About 16 male and female athletes at the 2016 Paralympics used the template chair to determine the ideal configuration for their competition wheelchairs. At a cost between $6,000 and $10,000 each, it’s important to get them right the first time.
“Once the athlete’s chair is a good fit, then we can focus on what matters – the technical skills development and physical development,” says Frogley. “We’re not held back by a poorly fitting chair.”
Nikkel says the template chair was delivered to WBC in October 2014. From there, athletes took their individualized measurements to manufacturers and ordered customized chairs.
“I delivered it to them personally so I could show them how to use the chair,” says Nikkel. “It was exciting to see how incredibly useful it was to them.”