Application of Innovative Technology
If the past 15 years are any indication of the progress in store, we are legitimately in the infancy of wheelchair development. Advancements such as stronger, lighter frames made from titanium, increased customization, increased sport specificity, and benefits from advancements used in other applications indicate that the possibilities are endless. The development of dual wheelie bars, for example, is a customization that provides the basketball player with greater stability to tilt laterally and block a shot taken behind them. This technological development has enhanced athletic strategy tremendously and has provided a more dynamic platform from which to progress.
Snowboard bindings, aka “ratchet straps,” have all but replaced the metal buckle and Velcro strap. The use of conventional metal buckles and Velcro straps may prove dangerous to an athlete who lacks the ability to feel the buckle rubbing against the skin, or may give way if overly saturated with moisture or sweat. The use of ratchet straps has become vital in a variety of sporting arenas. Specific to wheelchair basketball, for example, ratchet straps ensure that one’s core is maintained in an exact position within the chair, in the interest of precisely replicating a shot.
The integration of carbon fiber spokes, borrowed from the cycling world, has enabled athletes to optimize performance with wheels that are lightweight, strong, and more durable. These wheels have particularly impacted basketball and tennis wheelchairs, rendering the chairs lighter and more responsive. In addition, carbon fiber spokes allow athletes to tilt with smaller possibility of collapse commonly associated with metal rims. The integration of rubber-coated push rims is designed to mitigate overuse injuries – especially for those with tetraplegia – and serve as another tool to maximize performance.
With the never-ending desire to improve an athlete’s function in a wheelchair, the cutting-edge design of yesterday will be rendered obsolete with tomorrow’s innovation. Thus, each individual athlete’s skill level will be maximized and wheelchair sports will be catapulted to endless heights.