Wheelchair Racing: Different Strokes for Different Folks
The two techniques are suitable for different types of
athletes, often depending on their physical characteristics, he says. To arrive
at their findings, Chow and colleagues compared eight elite athletes who used
the CVT stroke with seven who used the PBT.
That's not to say that racers have readily adapted to the new
technique, which requires a closed hand.
"A lot of people can't push that way so they turn back to
the conventional technique," says Morse.
The PBT stroke is hard to pick up, he says. "It can take
anywhere from two days to six years to get right."
What does a wheelchair racer need to get started?
"You need a feel for making contact with the hand ring of
the wheel, a comfortable pair of gloves, and to be comfortable in the chair
itself," says Morse.
Training can be intense, he says. "If you are getting ready
for a marathon, you have to do 120 to 200-plus miles a week," Morse
In wheelchair racing, "the Boston Marathon is the biggest
race. Once you have won it, it's just an incredible rite of passage," Morse
says, likening it to what Daytona is for NASCAR drivers.
Morse trained eight-time Boston Marathon winner Jean Driscoll,
who has used both methods in her career.
"I used the thumb technique from 1987 through November
1991, and then in December of 1991, I started to experiment with the PBT,"
she tells WebMD. "It took me about two weeks going nine miles an hour to
figure it out, but once I picked it up, I broke the world record by six
"I was going fast with the thumb technique, but when I
switched to PBT, I went even faster," she says. Her record still stands at
Driscoll retired from racing on Nov. 30, 2000, and is now
speaking and writing. Her book, Determined to Win, hit bookstores
everywhere in September.
One of the best ways for wheelchair racers to stave off injury
is through conditioning, Driscoll tells WebMD.
"Be consistent in your training. Take care of rotator cuff
muscles and strengthen your back muscles -- not just chest muscles," she
says. "Many people don't realize how much back strength is required in
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans
of America are hosting the 21st annual National Veteran's Wheelchair games from
July 1-5 in New York.
One of the scheduled participants, Gregory Morris, now 53, has
been participating in the Games for 21 years. He participates in a slew of
events from bowling to track races.
In his earlier years of racing, he used the CVT technique, but
now he competes in a motorized chair.
While this method did not affect his shoulders or arms, he has
seen it occur in other athletes.