FES Rowing Biomechanics: fixed and floating stretcher ergometers

B.J. Andrews, James Shippen, R.S. Gibbons, Barbara May, G. Wheeler

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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    Cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis result in reduced life expectancy and low energy fractures in SCI. In the
    future, new cellular treatments are anticipated that aim to restore neurological function; however, these are only likely
    to be of benefit to either the recently injured or to those who have avoided irreversible secondary conditions such as
    CVD and osteoporosis. FES rowing potentially offers significant cardiovascular health benefits. Here preliminary
    results are presented, using two forms of FES. Joint contact forces are presented for a T4 (ASIA A, 11yrs post injury)
    72.5kg male with 9 yrs of daily FES rowing experience. Peak joint contact forces at the knee (but not the hip, ankle or
    foot) were in excess of 1.5× body weight (BW) at stroke rates approx 30 cycles/min, with over 7200 loading cycles per
    month. This pattern of usage is expected to provide significant cardiovascular health benefits as well as preserve bone
    mineral around the knee- which is a common fracture site. Joint contact forces up to 4 times BW were observed
    depending on rowing technique. Thus there is an increased risk of fracture. Although we have not observed any
    fractures so far, it is now required to determine safe training protocols for FES rowing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

    Bibliographical note

    This paper, given at The Annual Conference of the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society (IFESS), Banff, Canada, 9-12 Sept 2012 is available to download at the conference website http://ifess2012.com/. Author's note: This paper advances the understanding of the loading patterns occurring during functional electrical stimulation within the leg muscles of paraplegic subjects during rowing. Paralysis of the body caused by spinal cord injury has many detrimental affects on the body, in addition to lose of mobility. Bone is a living tissue which grows in response to imposed stress; when this repetitive, routine loading is removed due to paralysis, bone growth ceases and goes into reverse with bone death causing embrittlement. It has been established by other researchers that loading in excess of 1.2 body weight stimulates bone growth – this paper is the first to apply biomechanical analysis to calculate the forces within the bones of paraplegic subjects during the external electrical stimulation of the leg muscles. The significance of this research is that it will enable research groups to understand the loads which occur during externally stimulated paraplegic movement and will be able to optimise this loading to produce forces sufficiently large to generate bone growth whilst simultaneously not being sufficiently large to cause further injury to the subject. This research is on-going and will consider in the near future the activation of additional muscles and the proportional control of the muscles which will be superior to the off/on approach currently being used in other research institutions.
    This paper has been accepted into the annual conference of the Annual Conference of the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society (IFESS), Banff, Canada which has a rejection rate in excess of 70%.


    • www.FES rowing.org
    • 3D biomechanics
    • floating stretcher ergometer
    • osteoporosis
    • fracture risk in SCI.


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