From wooden to wondrous: The technology of wheelchairs

As medical science improves so many facets of our lives, the humble but vital wheelchair also advances.

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Athletic wheelchair Athletic wheelchair (Photo: mezzotint / Shutterstock)

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Wheelchairs for athletes

Wheelchair sports started in the early 1950s, but it wasn't until the 1970s and '80s that wheelchairs were designed specifically for the needs of athletes — slanted wheels and lightweight frames being the key developments. Today, there is a specific wheelchair for all kinds of sports: basketball, racing and even soccer. Each design differs with regards to the size and angle of the wheels, materials used for the frame and how the chair is controlled by the user. For example, a rugby wheelchair is much sturdier than the lightweight tennis wheelchair.

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