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Maximizing mobility after SCI

February 5, 2010

Untangling the influence of functional limitations, fitness, and skill

Independent transfers and self-propulsion are critical components of daily life for many individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI). These activities are affected by 1) an individual’s functional limitation, i.e. ‘injury level’; 2) their ‘fitness’, i.e. strength, power, and endurance; and 3) their ‘skill’ level. How these items interact to affect mobility is not fully understood. In addition, it is unknown which fitness parameter is most important to maximizing personal mobility. We must first define the relationships between injury level, fitness, and skill and identify how each fitness parameter is related to personal mobility before we can develop effective interventions to maximize mobility after SCI. This lecture will review up-to-date findings of a collaborative project between the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis (USA) and the Dutch multi-center research program “Restoration of Mobility in SCI Rehabilitation” (Netherlands). The immediate project objectives are to define how the interaction of injury level, fitness, and skill affect personal mobility after SCI and to identify which fitness parameter most strongly affects specific mobility skills in persons with SCI. The long term project objective is to identify, develop, and implement effective interventions to optimize mobility after SCI. 

Presenter Bio

Dr. Rachel Cowan
Post-Doctoral Associate
Applied Physiology Department
University of Miami

Dr. Cowan is a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Applied Physiology Laboratory at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. A North Carolina native, she graduated summa cum laude with University and Departmental honors in Physical Education from UNC-Wilmington (2000); earned an M.S. in Health and Exercise Science from Wake Forest University (2003), and holds a PhD in Rehabilitation Science and Technology from the University of Pittsburgh (2007).  As a doctoral student working at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories under guidance of Michael Boninger, MD, she was awarded a NIH Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship to study wheelchair propulsion biomechanics. In addition, she received a Paralyzed Veterans of America Education Foundation Grant to develop a wheelchair propulsion biomechanics database to define ‘typical’ propulsion biomechanics for a variety of wheelchair users. She was recently designated the 2010 Paralyzed Veterans of America Fritz Krauth Memorial Post-doctoral Fellow: A distinction awarded each year to the highest scoring fellowship application. Her research interest integrates biomechanical, functional, and fitness assessments, with the ultimate goal of enhancing quality of life by enabling all persons to achieve their desired levels of participation.

Presentation Location

International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries (ICORD)