Manual wheelchair propulsion in daily life and sports is increasingly being studied. Initially, an engineering and physiological perspective was taken. More recently a concomitant biomechanics interest is seen. Themes of biomechanical and physiological studies today are performance enhancing aspects of wheelchair use and the ergonomics of wheelchair design. Apart from the propulsion technique the focus of biomechanics research of manual wheelchair propulsion is mainly towards injury mechanisms, especially phenomena of overuse to the upper extremity. Obviously, the vehicle mechanics of wheelchairs must be included within this biological framework. Scientific research is progressing, but is still hampered by methodological limitations, such as the heterogeneity and small numbers of the population at study as well as the inconsistency of employed technologies and methodologies. There is a need for consensus regarding methodology and research strategy, and a strong need for collaboration to improve the homogeneity and size of subject groups and thus the power of the experimental results. Thus a sufficiently strong knowledge database will emerge, leading to an evidence-base of performance enhancing factors and the understanding of the risks of wheelchair sports and long-term wheelchair use. In the light of the current biomechanical and physiological knowledge of manual wheelchair propulsion there seems to be a need for the stimulation of other than hand rim propelled manual wheelchairs. © 2002 IPEM. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.