Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Racing Wheelchairs for Children

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Racing Wheelchairs for Children

Article excerpt

Wheelchair racing is fun, recreational, therapeutic and highly competitive. Adults don't have all the fun, though--kids, too, are tearing up the tracks. Within the junior class, the girls are as tough as the guys--the 1992 and 1993 Sports 'n Spokes Junior Athletes of the Year, Shannon Morrisey and LeeAn Shannon, are racing champions.

As with all sports and recreational activities, safety considerations should be foremost. It is advisable that a protective helmet be worn at all times while racing.

From the standard wheelchair to today's state-of-the-art models, the racing chair has gone through many changes: its seat angle has been raised to provide better sitting stability; the seat itself has been lowered; the two widespread front casters have been replaced by one large tire, and the front housing, connecting teh front wheel to the frame, has been extended to a create an open V-shaped form or a single bar, an "I" or "T" frame. Today's aerodynamic chairs have a lower center of gravity, provide a more stable seat for the racer and are incredibly fast.

Racing Wheelchair Components

Scaled down to proportionate size, children's racing wheelchairs have the same design as those for adults.

* Seats come as variations on one of two forms. The first looks like a standard wheelchair seat but with a shorter depth and a fabric strap which attahces to either side of the seat frame to go over or in front of the knees. This is sometimes referred to as a traditional seating position.

The second style is the bucket seat that supports the lower legs from the knees to the ankles. This seat keep the legs in a tucked position under the racer's torso, resulting in the "kneeling" racing position.

* Frames are generally tubular and made of chromemoly, graphite or other lightweight composite materials. Teh more awerodynamic V-shaped frame consists of one or more sets of bars that connect to a center bar or the front wheel housing from each side of the seat. This style is designed for advanced racers who have the flexibility to transfer over side bars and assume a kneeling position.

"I" or "T" frames features a single straight bar extending to the front wheel housing from underneath the racer's seat. This style allows easier transfers and may be better for quadriplegics or beginners.

Frames range in length from about 30 to 52 inches for children, and 50 to 56 inches for youth. A handbrake is located near the front wheel casing on the center frame bar, along with a track compensator or sterring system. …

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