Athletes with spinal cord injury (SCI), and in particular tetraplegia, have an increased risk of heat strain and consequently heat illness relative to able-bodied individuals. Strategies that reduce the heat strain during exercise in a hot environment may reduce the risk of heat illness. To test the hypotheses that precooling or cooling during intermittent sprint exercise in a heated environment would attenuate the rise in core temperature in tetraplegic athletes, eight male subjects with SCI (lesions C5-C7; 2 incomplete lesions) undertook four heat stress trials (32.0 ± 0.1°C, 50 ± 0.1% relative humidity). After assessment of baseline thermoregulatory responses at rest for 80 min, subjects performed three intermittent sprint protocols for 28 min. All trials were undertaken on an arm crank ergometer and involved a no-cooling control (Con), 20 min of precooling (Pre), or cooling during exercise (Dur). Trials were administered in a randomized order. After the intermittent sprint protocols, mean core temperature was higher during Con (37.3 ± 0.3°C) compared with Pre and Dur (36.5 ± 0.6°C and 37.0 ± 0.5°C, respectively; P < 0.01). Moreover, perceived exertion was lower during Pre (13 ± 2; P < 0.01) and Dur (12 ± 1; P < 0.01) compared with Con (14 ± 2). These results suggest that both precooling and cooling during intermittent sprint exercise in the heat reduces thermal strain in tetraplegic athletes. The cooling strategies also appear to show reduced perceived exertion at equivalent time points, which may translate into improved functional capacity.
- Core temperature
- Functional capacity
- Spinal cord injury
- Thermal strain
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation