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Kessler Foundation named site for major study of wheelchair use in spinal cord injury

West Orange, NJ. February 26, 2013. Kessler Foundation is participating in the Collaboration on Mobility Training (COMIT), a large study designed to maximize independence among wheelchair users with spinal cord injury (SCI). The COMIT, a SCI Model Systems (SCIMS) Multisite Collaborative Research Project, is funded by the National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR grant #H133A120004).

The 5-year, $4.5 million grant was awarded to the lead center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), with Kessler Foundation receiving $850,000 as one of the collaborating sites.

All four collaborating sites are participants in the NIDRR-funded SCIMS program, a network of 14 centers that studies the course of recovery and outcomes following the delivery of a coordinated system of care for individuals with SCI. The sites are: Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System (NNJSCIS) (a cooperative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and University of Medicine & Dentristry of NJ); the Midwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury Care System (Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago); and the South Florida SCI System (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, The Miami Project and Jackson Memorial Hospital). COMIT will also collaborate with Dr. Lee Kirby and colleagues from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

"A wheelchair is often seen as a symbol of disability. However, for many people with SCI and lower limb paralysis the wheelchair is the single most important factor in their ability to be independent after their injury," said Trevor Dyson-Hudson, M.D., Director of SCI Research at Kessler Foundation and principal investigator for the NNJSCIS. "Through training in wheelchair skills and maintenance, our goal is to minimize obstacles to independence caused by environmental barriers and wheelchair malfunction."

The ability to use and maintain a wheelchair effectively is a factor in life satisfaction and community participation, according to research conducted by Michael Boninger, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Dec;93(12):2237-43.). Today, patients spend less time in the hospital after injury, which means less time to learn how to use and maintain their wheelchairs. More than 500 individuals with spinal cord injury will participate in COMIT, which will examine the impact of web-based training and group sessions on wheelchair skills and maintenance.


Contact: Carolann Murphy
Kessler Foundation

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