University staff saddle up for stroke research

A team of researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is working to help stroke survivors get back into cycling by engaging with members of the community.

As part of the project, the University’s Stroke Research department invited stroke survivors, relatives, carers and healthcare professionals from across Lancashire to try out a range of adapted and electric bicycles.

The event, held at the UCLan Sports Arena, saw participants trialling three wheelers, four wheelers, recumbents, hand cycles and wheelchair transporters to explore whether adapted and electric bicycles can support those affected by stroke in returning to or taking up cycling.

It was supported by Electric Bikes Research Executive (EBRE), and part of independent research funding provided by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

UCLan has established a collaborative partnership with EBRE, a charity which aims to unlock the potential of electrically assisted pedal cycles through research, innovation and educational activities, through the NIHR’s Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI).

Professor Caroline Watkins, head of UCLan’s Stroke Research team, said: “Reclaiming mobility is a significant part of rehabilitation for stroke survivors and our work is committed to identifying ways to help people improve their health and wellbeing, by encouraging them to get outdoors and do something enjoyable with family and friends.

“This particular initiative was inspired by a member of our team, a stroke survivor, who recently began using a recumbent bicycle but fatigue prevented him travelling as far as he would like. As a result, we began considering alternative options to see how they might work in practice.

“We wanted to speak to people to see how they could feel more confident about getting back on a bike, what their concerns may be, as well as gaining the perspective of health professionals who may be cautious about encouraging potentially risky activities.

“Some very useful feedback was obtained on the day which will help us to now look in greater detail at the physical adaptations which electrically assisted bicycles would require to make them suitable for stroke survivors with a range of impairments, as well as the further discussions needed to help people work through practical and mental barriers prior to revisiting leisure pursuits.”

According to the Stroke Association, stroke occurs approximately 152,000 times a year and there are over 1.2million stroke survivors in the UK.

UCLan’s Stroke Research team is the UK’s only nurse-led stroke research unit and works closely with national and international partners to promote stroke research and improve care and education standards. The team’s extensive portfolio of primary and secondary research spans the five main areas of stroke care: acute, long-term care, prevention, rehabilitation and workforce development.