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Hohenstein scientists improve apparel for wheelchair users
Nov '12
Within the framework of the research project (AiF-Nr. 17377 N), 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: “By choosing these particular sports we are covering both indoor and outdoor sports, which means that our research results can also be adapted to other sports disciplines.

“A further benefit is that we are examining two different body postures, the more horizontal body position of the hand bikers and the upright sitting position of the wheelchair basketball players and this enables any results to be easily transferred to other sports.” 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.

Back in the 1980s clothing technology experts had already captured the physical dimensions of wheelchair users in order to improve the fit of everyday clothing. With the assistance of today's 3D scanner technology first of all the body can be captured in full and then a virtual twin (avatar) can be compiled which can be used to measure on the computer, as required, individual body measurements such as the back, legs or arms.

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.

The sitting position of wheelchair users in particular creates specific requirements for clothing cuts. In order to achieve a horizontal waistband fit, the back part of the trousers must be cut longer than the front. The horizontal position of the handbikers on the other hand requires the exact opposite in functionalities if the sportswear is to sit in the optimum position. In the majority of wheelchair athletes the upper body and arms are very muscular which must be taken into consideration in the design of shirts and jackets. To create a good fit with extensive freedom of movement, the clothing items should therefore have adapted seam lines.

In addition to the anatomical specifics, as part of their project, the researchers also collated those special requirements which arise from the sports commitment of the athletes. Therefore, in addition to the 3D scanner measurements, Anke Klepser has also conducted a survey to collate the optimisation wishes of the test persons. For instance, the hand bikers said that they would like to see a narrow lower leg trouser width which would offer them better head wind protection.

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