Head support in wheelchairs (scoping review): state-of-the-art and beyond

A.M. Geers*, E.C. Prinsen, Dick J. Van Der Pijl, A. Bergsma, J.S. Rietman, H.F.J.M. Koopman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
220 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Many wheelchair users experience disabilities in stabilising and positioning of the head. For these users, adequate head support is required. Although several types of head supports are available, further development of these systems is needed to improve functionality and quality of life, especially for the group of severely challenged users. For this group, user needs have not been clearly established. In this article, we provide an overview of the state-of-the-art in wheelchair mounted head supports and associated scientific evidence in order to identify requirements for the next generation of head support systems. Materials and methods: A scoping review was performed including scientific literature (PubMed/Scopus), patents (Espacenet/Google Scholar) and commercial information. Types of head support and important system characteristics for future head support systems were proposed from consultations with wheelchair users (n = 3), occupational therapists (n = 3) and an expert panel. Results: Forty scientific papers, 90 patents and 80 descriptions of commercial devices were included in the scoping review. The identified head support systems were categorised per head support type. Only limited scientific clinical evidence with respect to the effectiveness of existing head support systems was found. From the user and expert consultations, a need was identified for personalised head support systems that intuitively combine changes in sitting and head position with continuous optimal support of the head to accommodate severely challenged users. Conclusions: This study presents the state-of-the-art in head support systems. Additionally, several important system characteristics are introduced that provide guidance for the development and improvement of head supports.Implications for rehabilitation Especially for the group of severely challenged wheelchair users, current head support systems require further development to improve their users’ quality of life. The desired system characteristics which are discussed in this review are an important step in the definition of requirements for the next generation of head supports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-587
Number of pages24
JournalDisability and rehabilitation: assistive technology
Issue number5
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2023


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • orthotic devices
  • head support
  • wheelchairs
  • sitting
  • head movements
  • head position
  • assistive devices


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