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Written by:  Odile Fredericks
Date: November 29, 2011

Besides being a skilled chauffeur, psychologist, nurse, chef and maid, a mom also needs to be a weight lifter. At least, that's what I thought as I attempted to lift my babies in car seats from the car into my apartment, a store or playground some years ago. My wrist ached, and it didn't help that I was already exhausted from giving birth and being sleep deprived.

Finally, some local researchers are working on helping weary moms and dads. Engineers at North Carolina State University have developed a new handle for infant car seats (ICSs) that makes it easier for parents to lift the seat out of a car – while keeping a firmer grip on the handle – making it less likely that the seat will be dropped.

Michael Clamann, a doctoral student at NC State, lead author of a paper describing the research, and a parent himself, said in a statement that the researchers wanted to see if changing the angle of the ICS handle could make a difference. Their new handle design attempted to reduce "ulnar deviation," or how much your wrist bends, and associated pressure in the carpal tunnel. It's already known that the further you bend your wrist, the weaker your grip.

The researchers tested the new design versus the traditional ICS handle with 10 different women of similar height (5th to 20th percentile in height) by asking them to lift the car seat out of a mock-up midsize sedan and place it into a stroller. The new handle let them better position themselves over the car seat and let them use their biceps more than their forearm muscles. Biceps are stronger than forearms and can better bear weight, a strategy that helps smaller women who are carrying ICSs, Clamann said. The women also said the angled handle was easier to lift.

The researchers plan to test how variations on the angled handle design affect ergonomics when used in different vehicles, such as minivans, and for people who are taller than those tested.

For me, the study confirms what I've always suspected—that I was somehow having a hard time carrying the car seat because I'm short and that my sore wrists were the result of carrying the car seat. I'm also excited to know that other short parents—and maybe tall ones, too— may have an easier time than I did!



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