Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Carl Mattacola


Hand dominance is the preferential use of one hand over the other for motor tasks. 90% of people are right-hand dominant, and the majority of injuries (acute and cumulative trauma) occur to the dominant limb, creating a double-impact injury whereby a person is left in a functional state of single-handedness and must rely on the less-dexterous, non-dominant hand. When loss of dominant hand function is permanent, a forced shift of dominance is termed injury-induced hand dominance transfer (I-IHDT).

Military service members injured in combat operation may face I-IHDT following mutilating injuries (crush, avulsion, burn and blast wounds) that result in dominant limb amputation or limb salvage. Military occupational therapy practitioners utilize an intervention called Handwriting For Heroes to facilitate hand dominance transfer. This intervention trains the injured military member how to write again using the previously non-dominant hand. Efficacy and clinical effectiveness studies were needed to validate the use of this intervention.

This dissertation contains three studies related to I-IHDT. One study measured handwriting performance in adults who previously (greater than 2 years ago) lost function of their dominant hands. Results verified that handwriting performance, when measured on two separate occasions (six-weeks apart) was similar (stable). A second study examined the efficacy of Handwriting For Heroes in non-impaired participants. Results demonstrated a positive effect on the variables that measured the written product: legibility, writing speed (letters-per-minute); as well as a positive effect on the variables that measured the writing process: kinematic and kinetic parameters. The final study examined the clinical effectiveness of Handwriting For Heroes in an injured military population. Results did not show as positive results as the efficacy study, despite similar compliance with the intervention. Specifically, non-impaired participants started with faster writing speeds in their non-dominant hands (higher letters-per-minute) and made more gains (wider ranges). The non-impaired participants also started with faster dexterity (betters scores on the Grooved Pegboard) but they made fewer gains than the injured service members (smaller ranges). Nevertheless, injured participants clearly made gains in all dependent variables thereby demonstrating clinical effectiveness of the intervention



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