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Aerobic capacity and peak power output of elite quadriplegic games players


Background: Participation in wheelchair sports such as tennis and rugby enables people with quadriplegia to compete both individually and as a team at the highest level. Both sports are dominated by frequent, intermittent, short term power demands superimposed on a background of aerobic activity.

Objective: To gain physiological profiles of highly trained British quadriplegic athletes, and to examine the relation between aerobic and sprint capacity.

Methods: Eight male quadriplegic athletes performed an arm crank exercise using an ergometer fitted with a Schoberer Rad Messtechnik (SRM) powermeter. The sprint test consisted of three maximum-effort sprints of five seconds duration against a resistance of 2%, 3%, and 4% of body mass. The highest power output obtained was recorded (PPO). Peak oxygen consumption (V̇o2peak), peak heart rate (HRpeak), and maximal power output (POaer) were determined.

Results: Mean POaer was 67.7 (16.2) W, mean V̇o2peak was 0.96 (0.17) litres/min, and HRpeak was 134 (19) beats/min for the group. There was high variability among subjects. Peak power over the five second sprint for the group was 220 (62) W. There was a significant correlation between V̇o2peak (litres/min) and POaer (W) (r  =  0.74, p<0.05).

Conclusions: These British quadriplegic athletes have relatively high aerobic fitness when compared with the available literature. Moreover, the anaerobic capacity of these athletes appeared to be relatively high compared with paraplegic participants.

  • HR, heart rate
  • POaer, peak aerobic power output
  • PPO, peak power output
  • o2peak, peak oxygen uptake
  • wheelchair rugby
  • wheelchair tennis
  • Paralympic athletes
  • spinal cord injury
  • physiological profiles

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